Capita admits to further cervical screening administration errors

The BMA has again demanded that Capita be stripped of its contract to provide GP support services after the company admitted to further mistakes in the administration of the cervical screening programme.

The latest error involved a failure to process email correspondence (Photo: Daniel Sambraus/EyeEm/Getty Images)
The latest error involved a failure to process email correspondence (Photo: Daniel Sambraus/EyeEm/Getty Images)

The outsourcing giant admitted to an administrative error where emails and letters relating to cervical screening were not processed correctly, but it said that no harm had been caused by the mistake.

NHS England announced that Capita would be stripped of its contract to run the administration side of the cervical screening programme in March and the service would move back in-house. NHS England said today that this process had begun and would be completed ‘in the next few months'.

However, Capita remains responsible for the rest of the Primary Care Support England (PCSE) contract, which includes responsibility for payments to practices, administering GP pensions and the GP performers list and transfer of patient records.

Processing delays

Capita posted a statement on the PCSE website today which said that the most recent error had caused a delay in 16 women receiving their invitation to cervical screening. A further 99 women should have been removed from the programme, but this was not actioned.

The BMA said that it understood that emails sent to three inboxes were left unchecked 'for around two years' and that the total number of emails that went unprocessed could be in their thousands.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'Less than a year after tens of thousands of women missed vital correspondence about cervical screening, this is a further example of patient safety being put at risk because of Capita’s incompetence.

'While the numbers here are much smaller, this is testament to the hard work and diligence of GPs and their teams, picking up the pieces where Capita has failed. However, if just one patient comes to harm as a result of this blunder – that is one too many.

'We understand that all women affected have been informed, but to hear that they may be up to two years overdue for an appointment will no doubt cause a great deal of distress and anxiety.

'This most recent revelation provides further evidence that it is unfit to hold this PCSE contract and, as we have stressed consistently, NHS England must take it back in-house immediately.'

Capita mistakes

Previous failures by Capita resulted in thousands of women not receiving correspondence relating to cervical screening. In November 2018, Capita admitted that between January and June that year 4,508 letters about screening results had been delayed, while 43,200 women should have received an intivation and reminder letter about screening were sent one or the other but not both.

A 'thorough review' following the discovery revealed that a further 3,591 items of correspondence had not been sent in 2017. In both cases the failures were a result of the correct process for uploading, organising and checking datafiles not being followed.

Meanwhile, earlier this year GPonline repored that practices had been left out of pocket by tens of thousands of pounds because of delays in Capita updating the GP performers list. This meant PCSE continured to claim pension contributions from practices for doctors who have long since moved on or retired.

Capita was also forced to extend the deadline for GPs to submit annual pension forms in February after doctors were unable to upload information via the PCSE website.

A spokesperson for NHS England and Improvement said: 'There is no current evidence that this incident has led to any harm. Every woman’s case has been reviewed and those who did experience a delay have been contacted and are able to get support from their GP.

'Capita are being stripped of their responsibilities for cervical screening administration, and the transition to inhouse service has begun and will be completed in the next few months."

A Capita spokesperson said: 'Due to an administrative error, a number of emails and letters sent to PCSE regarding the cervical screening programme were not processed correctly. There is no indication any patient harm has been caused as a result.

'In total, 16 women may have experienced a delay in receiving their result or invitation to attend a screening. PCSE has written to women affected, and apologises for the delay.'

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