NAO: Unprocessed correspondence could cost NHS England £2.4m

7 Feb 18

A review of unprocessed correspondence may cost NHS England up to £2.4m, a National Audit Office report has revealed.

The financial watchdog has released the figures from a separate NHS England review – still on-going - which has now identified 374,000 items of unprocessed clinical correspondence.

Confusion over where GPs should direct their clinical correspondence began when troubled technology outsourcing firm Capita took over responsibility of NHS primary care support services in September 2015, the NAO concluded.

“A small proportion of GPs had not been complying with guidance and had erroneously been sending clinical correspondence and other material to Capita,” the watchdog’s report, released on Friday last week, found.

It noted: “Capita has no contractual responsibility for redirecting clinical correspondence.”

Correspondences were erroneously sent to Primary Care Services, 36 that were then shut under Capita’s ‘transformation plans’ from March 2016.

Between 1 June 2015 and 31 March 2016 an unknown number of GP practices continued to send clinical correspondence to their previous Primary Care Services centres for redirection, the NAO report found.

It took until October 2016 for Capita to discover and report the issue to NHS England.

“Capita told us that, with hindsight, it believes it could have reported the backlog sooner,” the NAO pointed out.

The £2.4m estimate includes £0.3m, which will be paid to GPs for their contribution to the investigation.

The stream of correspondence being sent incorrectly to Capita has not yet stopped.

The NAO report was conducted after NHS England reported to the Public Accounts Committee in October last year it had discovered a backlog of 162,000 of clinical correspondence that had not been redirected. 

NHS England’s national incident team has now found 374,000 items of unprocessed clinical correspondence, of which 1,811 were ‘high priority’ items , such as documents relating to screening or urgent test results.

The NHS England review, which is due to be published at the end of March, is looking into whether any harm has been caused to patients as a result of the undirected correspondence.

So far, there has been no recorded evidence that the backlog has caused detriment to patient health.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “The key fact is that there is no evidence that any patient has been harmed by this, and by March every piece of correspondence will have been reviewed and refiled by GPs and the relevant NHS archive."

The misdirection of clinical documents is an ongoing problem for the NHS and in a separate incident, NHS Shared Business Services informed NHS England and the Department of Health that it had discovered a backlog of approximately 435,000 items of unprocessed clinical correspondence.

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