A Resized Pharmacy Image cbMay 21 2018 

NHS England and Capita’s handling of primary care support services has been criticised in an official report.

The National Audit Office has published a review saying that “NHS England and Capita misunderstood the risks in outsourcing primary care support services resulting in services to 39,000 GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists that were a long way below an acceptable standard.”

While there has been some improvement in Capita’s performance, “widespread failures are still being experienced by primary care practitioners.” Investigators found that only 41% of pharmacy market entry applications had been processed within 70 days in November 2017 which, in one case, meant a pharmacist was unable to retire.

Capita’s role is to provide administrative and back-office support via Primary Care Support England (PCSE). Services include: 

  • administering payments to GP practices, opticians and pharmacies;
  • administering entry and changes to national performers lists;
  • moving patients’ medical records and processing patient registrations.

NHS England had agreed a £339 million contract with Capita to run existing support services for primary care and to transform the services. However, this was high risk, said the NAO, as it relied on 35% savings having to be made in the first couple of years of the contract at a loss of £34 million to Capita, which would then recoup the money later.

“NHS England has made savings, in line with expectations, of £60 million in the first two years of the contract, as the financial risk of increased costs sits with Capita who have made a £125 million loss over this period,” said the NAO. NHS England has penalised Capita by withholding a further £5.3 million but may have to compensate primary care contractors with £3 million.

PSNC had written to NHS England in 2016 raising concerns about the pharmacy services provided by Capita and had also supplied information to the NAO investigation using evidence gathered from contractor and LPCs.

Gordon Hockey, PSNC’s Director of Operations and Support, said the NAO’s conclusions “will come as no surprise to the many community pharmacies and LPCs who have reported problems with PCSE services, provided through Capita. 

“PSNC wrote to NHS England in July 2016 expressing its dismay at Capita’s services and seeking remedial action; at that point we had many reports of services operating at well below acceptable standards, and this is echoed by the NAO report. 

“We are pleased our work to raise the matter and push for improvements has had some impact, with services generally improving since 2016, but we will continue to work closely with pharmacies, LPCs and Capita to ensure this continues – we must have confidence that PCSE is offering a consistently good service to pharmacies across the country.”

NAO announcement     
NAO ‘NHS England’s management of the primary care support services contract with Capita’ report. May 17 2018          
PSNC comment