NHS England’s outsourcing of primary care support services to Capita has been described as a “shambles” in a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report.
The report, ‘Supporting primary care services: NHS England’s contract with Capita’, published on 25 July 2018, claimed NHS England’s “short-sighted rush to slash by a third the £90m it cost to provide these services was heedless of the impact it would have on the 39,000 GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists affected” and could have potentially put patients “at risk of serious harm”.
The PAC acknowledged that Capita had now apologised for mistakes in providing the administrative and back-office services but emphasised that both NHS England and Capita had ignored many of the basic rules of contracting and did not do enough to stop issues from getting worse as they emerged.
Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “NHS England made a complete mess of what could have been a responsible measure to save taxpayers’ money.
“It is clearly unacceptable that poor procurement should put patients at risk of harm and undermine the ability of GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists to do their jobs.”
She added that NHS England needed to rethink its approach to outsourcing and invest time in getting its contracts right.
Capita provided several services under the contract, including validating and processing pharmacy market entry applications. A report into Capita’s contract, published by the National Audit Office in May 2018, found that one pharmacist said they were unable to retire because applications for changes in pharmacy business ownership were being processed so slowly.
The PAC has asked NHS England to report back to them in January 2019 detailing improvements to future contracting; what it has done to compensate primary care practitioners for the disruption to the service; and whether there was evidence of any harm to patients.
The PAC also asked Capita and NHS England to write to them in January 2019 to show whether changes to their partnership working has improved their relationship.