Capita admits further administrative errors in cervical screening programme


Capita has again come under fire for an administration error that caused a delay to a number of women being invited for cervical screening.

The beleaguered professional services firm has faced fierce criticism after it was revealed 16 women had missed their screening invites – but the British Medical Association (BMA) believes the number could be in the thousands.

The firm also failed to remove 99 women from the screening programme, it was revealed in the Primary Care Support England (PCSE) July bulletin.

Capita has apologised for the delays and insists there is no indication any harm was caused as a result.

According to the BMA, correspondence on the screening was sent to three different emails and “left unprocessed for about two years”.

The association has reiterated previous calls for the firm to be stripped of the cervical screening contract immediately.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said it was a further example of patients being put at risk due to Capita’s “incompetence”.

“We understand that all women affected have been informed, but to hear that they may be up to two years overdue for an appointment will no doubt cause a great deal of distress and anxiety,” he said.

“This most recent revelation provides further evidence that it is unfit to hold this PCSE contract and, as we have stressed consistently, NHS England must take it back in-house immediately.”

A full review has been undertaken, working closely with Public Health England and NHS England, the PCSE statement said.

In March it was revealed the cervical screening contract would be stripped from Capita and brought back in-house.

Speaking at a Public Accounts Committee meeting, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said the health service had “not been satisfied” with the way Capita had handled the contract.

Instead, he announced that NHS Digital would begin a phased take-over of the contract from June, expected to be completed by 2020.

Capita came under fire last year after it was revealed more than 48,000 women may not have received information about their cervical screening due to an administrative error.

The firm, which is responsible for distributing invitation and reminder letters about smear tests, confirmed that between January and June 2018 about 43,200 women due to receive letters were sent an invitation letter or a reminder, but not both.

And 4,508 letters detailing the results of smear tests were also delayed. Capita admitted a “small proportion” of these related to a need for further examination.

A much anticipated national review into the three national screening programmes in England is currently underway, with a focus on technology.

An interim report from the review found IT needs to be “radically upgraded” and online booking needs to be introduced to improve cancer screening programmes in the NHS.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the first NHS cancer director and former CQC chief inspector of hospitals, said funding new IT systems was an “urgent priority” and booking a screening appointment needed to be as “simple and convenient as booking a plane ticket online”.

The final report is due in summer 2019.

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