Exclusive: NHS overrules Capita over right to work for GPs stuck in performers list backlog

NHS England officials have overruled private contractor Capita after it told a GP to stop working indefinitely while his performers list application was stuck in an administrative backlog, GPonline understands.

The case has emerged just weeks after the BMA warned that delays in processing recently qualified GPs' performers list applications risked leaving them in 'legal jeopardy', and could cause confusion for other GPs in similar legal limbo.

The recently qualified GP - whose application is currently being processed - told GPonline he was forced to cancel all his surgeries indefinitely after being told this week he was not allowed to work by Capita’s primary care support England (PCSE) performers list service.

But local NHS England officials later overruled the PCSE advice and told him he could go back to work. GPonline understands, however, that more GPs have subsequently been told to stop work by Capita/PCSE.

GP performers list

Capita said it expected its employees to adhere to NHS England procedures when speaking to GPs. NHS England said it had brought in its own experts to help resolve problems at the performers list service.

Both organisations indicated that the complex nature of the system involving a number of parties had contributed to the confusion. Capita is in the process of introducing a new, standardised process.

The recently qualified GP, who asked GPonline not to name him, has been waiting for his application to update his performers list status to be approved by Capita's PCSE service since early August. After being told initially he could continue to work as he awaited approval, the doctor was told this week by PCSE immediately to halt all clinical work.

The GP was told by his LMC that ‘PCSE should not have the authority to do this'.

Guidance issued by the BMA earlier this month said that GP trainees have three months from the start of their specialty training programme to be added to the performers list, ‘and cannot legally perform primary medical services beyond this window if they are not on the list’.

GP trainees

GP leaders warned of ‘serious implications’ for trainees and practices where applications were not processed within the three-month window.

'I have worked hard for years and this is shocking,' the GP who spoke to GPonline said. 'I just want to work.'

The doctor said he was told by a PCSE representative that applications from as far back as May were stuck in the backlog with several hundred, or a thousand GPs affected.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the BMA did not know the full scale of the backlog, but it was 'unacceptable if any GP has to stop working through no fault of their own and because of the failings of PCSE'.

The GPC has urged NHS England and Health Education England to take 'urgent steps' to avoid GPs being forced to stop work, he said.

GP workforce

The GP who spoke to this website also called on NHS England to act to ensure he and others in his situation could continue providing services to patients while Capita clears the backlog. 'NHS England just needs to say we can work,' he said.

A Capita spokeswoman said: ‘We have reviewed the number of applications that require urgent processing and these, with NHS England’s expertise and support, are our priority. Capita and the PCSE team have openly apologised to service users who have not received the consistent level of service quality that they should expect or that we would expect to provide.’

She added: ‘The guidance provided to the customer support team is in line with the standard operating procedures of NHS England and we expect all of our call handlers to adhere to the guidance when speaking to GPs.’

An NHS England spokeswoman said: ‘Capita had made us aware of a number of  issues involving the performers list process. We have taken immediate action to bring in a team of NHS England experts to work alongside Capita to resolve the issues. We are now identifying all cases which may be affected, these are being investigated urgently and prioritised and we will be putting steps in place to ensure that any new applications are processed correctly and within the proper timeframes.’

Capita has faced criticism over its handling of PCSE services, with the BMA warning earlier this month that problems with the service were putting patients at risk.

Photo: iStock

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