Practices paid over £2.4m so far to assess huge backlog of patient data

More than 200 high priority clinical documents are still awaiting further clinical assessment after more than 700,000 items of patient data were found undelivered in a warehouse last year.

Patient records (Photo: JH Lancy)
Patient records (Photo: JH Lancy)

Ministers have said that payments to GP practices to assess the information, which includes test results, have now exceeded £2.4m with more than 700 items still requiring further clinical assessment, including 203 cases classed as high priority.

Health minister Nicola Blackwood said in response to a parliamentary question from Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth that final liability for payments to GPs for the additional work was still under discussion.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted the scale of the blunder last month when he told MPs that more than 700,000 items of undelivered correspondence dating from between 2011 and 2016 had been discovered early last year.

Patient records

Items including clinical information were supposed to have been delivered to GP practices by former primary care support services provider NHS Shared Business Services (SBS). The letters should have been redirected to patients' new practices but went undelivered in three areas of England - the East Midlands, north-east London and south-west England.

GPonline reported in December that the GPC and NHS England had agreed a framework to pay practices for the additional workload they face, with a deal offering a fixed payment of £50 for processing less than 20 documents, £100 for 20 to 50 documents, and £50 for each batch of up to 10 items for any practice with more than 50 documents in total to process.

Ms Blackwood said in her response last week: ‘Payments made to GP practices, to the end of February 2017 for this work now total £2,442,750, for which final liability remains subject to discussion.’

‘Work continues to conduct the necessary assessments by registered GPs and undertake further clinical reviews, where required. As, to date, no harm has been identified, no compensation has been paid to patients.’

NHS investigation

The minister also revealed that a National Audit Office inquiring into the incident would examine the contract management of the outsourced service, as well and how it occurred and the response.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, NHS England and the DH have also launched investigations.

Ministers have denied covering up the failure to deliver a significant number of items of patient data. Mr Hunt has said he had acted on advice from officials not to reveal the situation until an assessment of the risk had been completed and practices informed in summer 2016. The government says it wanted to avoid practices being inundated by worried patients.

Mr Hunt has said the government took full responsibility for the ‘totally incompetent’ actions of the contractor Shared Business Services (SBS), a joint venture company owned by the DH and IT systems firm Sopra Steria.

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