MPs slam NHS England 'lack of grip' over mishandled patient data

NHS England has been heavily criticised by MPs over its handling of failures that meant hundreds of thousands of items of clinical correspondence did not reach GP practices.

More than 18 months after the DH and NHS England were informed that a huge backlog of clinical correspondence had been found, a report from the House of Commons public accounts committee says MPs are 'deeply unimpressed by the lack of grip NHS England still has' on the problem.

The report warns that almost 2,000 patients are still being assessed by NHS England to determine whether they have been harmed by the mishandling of correspondence, and MPs said NHS England had 'assumed without evidence' that a further 102,000 patients had not suffered harm.

MPs were 'dismayed' to be told last month that a further backlog of more than 160,000 records had been identified - on top of 709,000 identified initially.

NHS data mishandled

The public accounts committee has set deadlines for NHS England to complete reviews of mishandled correspondence - calling for all unprocessed correspondence to be identified by the end of 2017, and all correspondence to be reviewed, with a report sent back to MPs, by 31 March 2018.

The committee also warned that it was 'unacceptable' that NHS England had decided to 'assume' that patients from around 2,000 GP practices were unharmed - because the practices had not confirmed whether they had reviewed clinical correspondence from the backlog.

NHS England should obtain positive confirmation from all practices that they have reviewed correspondence from the backlog that related to their patients by 31 March 2018, the MPs say.

NHS England and the DH were initially informed that the backlog of data had been found by NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) - a company part-owned by the DH that ran primary care support services until this was outsourced to private provider Capita.

An NHS England spokeswoman said: 'NHS England was deeply concerned to be informed by the SBS company in March 2016 about their backlog of unprocessed correspondence. A team of doctors and other NHS staff was quickly set up to sort through the issues. Fortunately there is no evidence that any patient has been harmed, and the whole matter is on track to be resolved by March.'

Patient impact

Public accounts committee chair Meg Hillier MP said: 'We will never know the scale of emotional distress caused to patients by the shoddy handling of NHS clinical mail – a failure in service delivery which stretches back years and has still to run its course.

'It beggars belief that those tasked with tackling a rapidly expanding backlog of correspondence did not recognise its real-world significance.

'NHS England eventually stepped in but, even now, huge volumes of mail are still to be properly assessed and we are far from confident health officials are on top of the issues. The hunt for further correspondence, and therefore potential cases of harm to patients, continues.

She said that GPs had been paid to check through the backlog of correspondence and should be asked to confirm the results from their reviews, despite the likely impact on their workload.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

No plans to impose face-to-face GP appointment targets, Hancock tells BMA

No plans to impose face-to-face GP appointment targets, Hancock tells BMA

The government has no plans to impose face-to-face appointments targets on general...

Coronavirus: Key guidance GPs need to know about COVID-19

Coronavirus: Key guidance GPs need to know about COVID-19

GPonline provides an overview of the key guidance relating to coronavirus, including...

COVID-19 variants could force UK to revaccinate over next 2-3 years warns CMO

COVID-19 variants could force UK to revaccinate over next 2-3 years warns CMO

The UK's chief medical adviser has warned that new coronavirus variants may force...

BMA condemns 'fundamentally flawed' £20m weight management enhanced service

BMA condemns 'fundamentally flawed' £20m weight management enhanced service

The BMA has condemned a £20m weight management enhanced service as 'fundamentally...

GP contract update delivers extra PCN cash and £50m for new enhanced services

GP contract update delivers extra PCN cash and £50m for new enhanced services

An update to the GP contract agreement for 2021/22 has set out details of enhanced...

CQC rejects call for independent review to look at BAME bias in ratings

CQC rejects call for independent review to look at BAME bias in ratings

The CQC has rejected calls for an independent review of its ratings process to look...