NHS Capita contract had potentially put patients at risk of harm

A watchdog has found that the outsourcing of NHS England’s administration services to firm Capita may have put patients at risk, raising questions over the potential of patient harm and occurrence of medical negligence.

The recently released report from the National Audit Office found that 87 women were incorrectly notified that they were no longer part of the cervical screening programme raising concerns over the potential that they may pursue a misdiagnosis claim had they incurred any suffering as a result of the error.

The contract which has been in place since 2015 was to deliver primary care support services and included duties such as sending out test results, moving patient records, processing patient registrations as well as paying GP practices.

In addition, the National Audit Office confirmed that there had been delays in processing new applications for the performers list in 2016, which resulted in approximately 1,000 GPs, dentists and opticians being unable to work raising questions over the impact on patient safety. The report also found that there is a possibility that patients may have been put at risk due to problems with the performers list, including whether they were suitably qualified and had passed their relevant checks. Although it is not known the level of harm that occurred the report may result in those affected by these issues pursuing a GP negligence claim or dental negligence claim in order to seek compensation for any suffering incurred as a result. The potential impact on patient safety was directly addressed within the report, whereby it states that the failure to update the performers list may have resulted in practitioners that should have been removed, still being able to work.

The report also detailed how Capita carried out an aggressive office closure programme which continued despite the fact that it was having an adverse, harmful impact on services. In addition it is thought that other medical records and supplies may not have been delivered, or been delayed as a result – all of which have the potential to directly impact patient safety as a result.

Commenting on the report, Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said trying to cut costs while modernising the service was

“over-ambitious, disruptive for thousands of doctors, dentists, opticians and pharmacists and potentially put patients at risk of serious harm.”

It is unknown whether any level of harm has occurred to patients at this point.

It is important to note that the report confirmed that steps had been taken to improve the services performed by Capita and that going forward it will ensure that any issues still remaining are rectified as soon as possible in order to minimise any impact on patient safety.

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