The cervical screening programme has been hit by new problems in the administration of GP practice services, it has been announced.
A small number of women – 16 – have failed to receive invitations to screening on time, administrators Capita said. The latest problems led the British Medical Association to renew calls for Capita to be sacked from the primary care services contract amid warnings that thousands of emails may have gone astray.
Capita said another 99 women were wrongly left in the programme when they should have been removed. In a statement, it said: “A full review has been undertaken, working closely with Public Health England and NHS England, which found that the majority of the items were correctly handled through another route, as part of the NHS Cervical Screening fail safes that are in place.”
The BMA alleged that thousands of emails had got lost, including some related to pensions. GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: “Less than a year after tens of thousands of women missed vital correspondence about cervical screening, this is a further example of patient safety being put at risk because of Capita’s incompetence.
“While the numbers here are much smaller, this is testament to the hard work and diligence of GPs and their teams, picking up the pieces where Capita has failed. However, if just one patient comes to harm as a result of this blunder – that is one too many.
“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 added: “Four months ago, following repeated pressure by GPC England, NHS England finally stripped Capita of the cervical screening contract, however it is still responsible for a number of backroom GP functions, delivering Primary Care Support England services. 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.”
He added: “Indeed, alongside cervical screening information, we are also aware that there was other correspondence left unprocessed by Capita, including some regarding GP pensions, and we will be demanding more information and urgent action from NHS England on these.”