By Tony Collins
During a short debate in the House of Commons on Monday (27 February 2017) MPs complained about continuing problems on Capita’s contract to provide various support services for GPs.
The health secretary Jeremy Hunt told one MP,
“If Capita does not perform what it is contracted to do, we will take all necessary measures, including ending the contract.
“… there have been a number of problems with that contract in its early days. We believe that the situation on the ground is beginning to improve, but a lot of progress still needs to be made.”
Despite warnings from GPs that the private sector would find it difficult to take over multiple in-house support services for GPs, NHS England awarded Capita a seven-year £330 contract to run the Primary Care Support Services from 1 September 2015. Promised savings in the first year were about £40m on a budget of about £100m.
But problems began even before Capita took over, because NHS England made staff cuts in preparation for the start of the outsourcing deal. GPs complained in August 2015 about significant and unpredictable disruption.
By last year NHS England was describing Capita’s performance on the contract as “unacceptable”. Problems have continued for nearly a year.
This week in the Commons, one Labour MP Kate Green, suggested that problems on the Capita contract were no longer teething.
“GP practices in my constituency told me only a couple of weeks ago that those problems not only continue but are worsening.”
Another MP Sarah Wollaston, who’s a former GP and hospital doctor, and is now chairwoman of the Commons’ health committee, also told Hunt that problems on Capita’s GP support contract were “ongoing”.
“… there are ongoing problems with the transfer of patient records. GPs and hospitals spend endless hours chasing up results, investigations and letters on a daily basis. Is it not time that patients were given direct control of their own records, and will the Secretary of State provide an update on that to the House?”
Hunt replied that there were some teething problems that have been “causing problems for GPs”. He said his health minister Nicola Blackwood has been “meeting Capita and people relating to that contract on a fortnightly basis to identify the problems”.
He added that “we have become the first country in the world to give every patient access to their own records online”. From September, “people will be bable to do that without having to go to their GP’s surgery”.
Labour MP Margaret Greenwood told Hunt that a “number of GP practices in Wirral West have made clear to me their concerns about Capita’s handling of confidential patient records”.
“There have been cases of patient records being delayed when they move to another practice, and in some instances confidential records have not arrived at all… there is also concern that, if a patient is a risk to a doctor because of a mental health issue, that has not been flagged up to medical staff. That is a very serious risk to put staff under.”
She asked Hunt if he shared the view of the chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, who said that the GP support services contract was an example of what happens when the NHS tries to cut costs by inviting private companies to do work which they don’t do properly”.