Capita fail to deliver more than 40,000 cervical cancer screening letters

15th November 2018

More than 40,000 women have not received information on cervical cancer screening after Capita failed to send out letters.

Between January and June this year, 43,200 women were supposed to receive an invitation or a reminder from the NHS contractor about their screening but only received one of the two. It also led to the delays of 4,508 results letters.

Christian Beadell, senior solicitor at Fletchers Solicitors, said: “The announcement from NHS England confirms that approximately 4,500 people have not had appropriate correspondence sent to them at the correct time in relation to their cervical smear tests.

“This could result in delays in treatment and whilst NHS England has indicated that no one has come to harm as a result of the errors, it may be too early to reach such a conclusion. This further raises concerns over the continual reliance upon Capita as the provider of a number of core administrative functions within an NHS context.

“Capita are currently 3 years into a 7 year contract worth £330 million to provide primary care support to GP practices, opticians and pharmacies included responsibility for making payments, supplying needles, syringes and stationery to primary care providers and also included sending out invitation and recall letters to patients for cervical screening.”

In July of this year, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee published a report into these services and reached a damning conclusion:

“NHS England’s outsourcing of primary care support services to Capita Business Services Ltd (Capita) was a shambles. Its short-sighted rush to slash by a third the £90 million it cost to provide these services was heedless of the impact it would have on the 39,000 GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists affected.

“Capita recognises that the service it provided was not good enough. Its failures have not only been disruptive to thousands of GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists, but potentially have also put patients at risk of serious harm. We acknowledge that Capita has now apologised for its mistakes and will hold it to its commitment to improve services over the remaining life of the contract.

“Neither NHS England nor Capita understood the service that was being outsourced, and both misjudged the scale and nature of the risks. They ignored many of the basic rules of contracting, and, once problems emerged, did not do enough to stop the issues from getting worse. Rather than focussing on improving the service, NHS England and Capita have spent too long disputing basic elements of the contract and are still in disagreement over future payments. It is clear that NHS England ignored the many lessons this Committee has constantly highlighted about how to outsource effectively and benefit both users and taxpayers.”

“This latest error may only serve to question the ongoing relationship with Capita and we would urge that priority is given to patient safety in all issues relating to cost efficiencies.”

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