Patients 'could have been harmed' after Capita outsourcing

Leslie Hanson
May 18, 2018

NHS England hoped a seven-year, £330m deal with Capita would reduce its costs by 35%, while the outsourcing firm planned to make a loss of £64m in the first two years of the contract but recoup this later, the watchdog found.

"While not without its difficulties, by making this change over the past two years the NHS has successfully saved taxpayers £60m, as the NAO themselves confirm", NHS England said.

It said services had been "way below" acceptable standards, although no harm to patients had been found.

"Hardworking and diligent optometrists have been suffering for two years because of Capita's failure to deliver a suitable primary care support service in England", Dr Hampson emphasised.

Earlier this year, the NAO criticised NHS England and Capita over the backlog of 162,000 undelivered items of clinical correspondence.

NHS England declined to answer C+D's questions on the number of pharmacies affected by Capita's failings and if contractors will receive any of the £3 million earmarked to compensate primary care providers a result.

Patients could also have been put at risk due to Capita's management of the "performers list" of Global Positioning System, dentists and opticians.

The public body was, for example, "contractually unable to stop Capita's aggressive [primary care support] office closure programme, even though it was having a harmful impact on service delivery".

In September 2016 NHS England placed five of the nine services in a formal rectification process, including the customer support centre, medical records service and patient registration service. It chose to outsource the service as it lacked the necessary skills to transform services through better use of IT, the NAO said.

A Capita spokesman said: 'It has been acknowledged that performance has improved.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said that both NHS England and Capita misjudged the scale and nature of the risk in outsourcing services.

'Today NHS primary care providers across England are still smarting due to their reckless and wholly unnecessary choices'.

"Capita was incentivised through the contract to close existing services to minimise its losses but the interaction between running, closing and transforming services was more complex than Capita or NHS England had anticipated".

Although the mistakes did not result in any harm, they will raise further concerns about the NHS's cancer screening.

One of their recommendations is to "determine whether all current services within the PCSE [Primary Care Support England] contract are best delivered through that contract or whether some should be taken in-house by NHS England".

Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, responded to the report: "Trying to slash costs by more than a third at the same time as implementing a raft of modernisation measures was over-ambitious, disruptive for thousands of doctors, dentists and pharmacists and potentially put patients at risk of serious harm".

In response to the publication of the report, a Capita spokesperson highlighted to OT that the complexity of the service was not fully understood at the time it was contracted.

"The report notes that several organisations and legacy issues all contributed to underperformance".

"Capita will continue to work with all parties to address the remaining service issues".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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