Watchdog blasts NHS England outsourcing ‘shambles’

25 Jul 18

A NHS England primary care contract with Capita has been branded a “shambles” by MPs who are demanding a change in the way health chiefs approach outsourcing.

The Public Accounts Committee said that in its rush to save £90m by outsourcing services, the NHS failed to consider the impact on 39,000 health professionals affected by the decision.

A report by the committee, published today, said the health service “focused on maximising financial savings quickly, at the expense of service quality, without any piloting, effective user consultation or time spent getting the contract right.”

It added: “NHS England’s outsourcing of primary care support services to Capita Business Services Ltd was a shambles.”

Its report adds weight to growing speculation over Capita’s public service contracts, after Barnet Council announced it would be reviewing its ties with the company.

Agreed in 2015, the seven-year NHS England contract worth £330m aimed to provide administrative support in processing payments, ordering supplies and moving medical records for 39,000 GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists.

However, the PAC report said, “Neither NHS England nor Capita understood the service that was being outsourced, and both misjudged the scale and nature of the risks.”

The committee found that service failures following the outsourcing of this contract put patients at risk of “serious harm”- 87 women were incorrectly notified that they were no longer part of the cervical screening programme, according to the report

Th MPs recommended that NHS England update MPs with evidence of harm to patients by January 2019.

Capita’s failures to deliver back-office functions prevented about 1,000 GPs, dentists and opticians working with patients and some lost earnings as a result, the report said.

Meg Hillier, PAC chair, said NHS England needs to “rethink” its approach to outsourcing and spend time getting contracts right.

She said: “That means listening to concerns from the frontline and properly considering the impact changes will have on services and public health. But it also means establishing an effective relationship with the supplier.

“The dismal fallout here, with NHS England and Capita squabbling over details that should have been agreed in 2015, tells its own sorry tale.”

The PAC said that two and a half years into the contract basic elements of the deal are still being agreed.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “We will continue to work with medical professionals and Capita to resolve the historic issues which this look-back report reviews, but by making this change over the past two years, the NHS has successfully saved taxpayers £60 million, which has been successfully reinvested in frontline NHS patient care, funding the equivalent of an extra 30,000 operations.”

In February, the National Audit Office found that a mix-up between NHS England and Capita may end up costing NHS England £2.4m.

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