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The National Audit Office (NAO) has said that services outsourced to Capita had been “a long way below” acceptable standards.

A new report by the NAO has revealed that 87 women were wrongly informed that they were no longer part of the cervical screening programme since Capita started running back-office services in 2015.

Processing issues also led to an estimated 1,000 GPs, dentists and opticians from working with patients. Although no harm to patients was found, the risk was highlighted. Capita acknowledged that it worsened performance issues by continuing to close support services in 2016, even after it became apparent that the customer service centre was struggling to meet demands. 35 out of 38 support services were closed, and staff was cut from 1,3000 to 650.

The report also noted that NHS England was contractually unable to stop Capita’s “aggressive” office closure programme, despite the risk to patients it may have been causing.

The report also found patients could potentially have been put at risk because of problems with a list of GPs, dentists and opticians practising in the NHS that includes information on whether they were suitably qualified, and had passed other relevant checks.

Additionally, two-thirds of GP practices received incorrect medical records when patient had moved, and half a million new patient letters were not sent.

The chair of the Royal College of GPs said that the list of failures made by Capita had been “incredibly frustrating” and had created a “significant additional administrative burden”.

The £330 million deal between NHS England and Capita aimed to outsource and administration and reduce costs by 35% in the first year. The terms of the deal also aimed to invest in new, modern information technology and updated processes.

Capita has stated that it has so far helped save the NHS £60 million. They have also been fined £5.3 million by NHS England as penalties for poor performance.

The report stated that “Neither NHS England nor Capita fully understood the complexity and variation of the services being outsourced. As a result, both parties misjudged the scale and nature of the risk in outsourcing these services”.

“While NHS England has achieved financial savings and some services have now improved, value for money is about more than just cost reduction. It is deeply unsatisfactory that, two and a half years into the contract, NHS England and Capita have not yet reached the level of partnership working required to make a contract like this work effectively.”

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