Capita and the Outsourcing Crisis: Should PMs Be Worried?

Capita’s finances have been a hot topic in the news, with millions of pounds wiped off the company’s stock market value following a recent profit warning. Bearing in mind their involvement in the infrastructure of general practice and the wider NHS, should GP practice managers be worried?

A concerned practice manager shares their view on this ongoing story with FPM, describing their experiences of dealing with Capita, discussing outsourcing in the NHS, and telling us how they see this story ending…

I ask myself, could Capita go the same way as Carillion? We are currently assured not, but do we actually believe that? No-one seems to be examining the real reasons that Capita is in this mess, with everyone seeming to be concentrating on its losses, and not how they have happened.

Outsourcing often fails because those bidding for the contract fail to understand the complexities of the work needed – it’s only when the job starts that the reality of the work needed becomes apparent.

I could take some reassurance if the services Capita offered were first rate, but in my experience that is not the case. In fact, I think it should be renamed with an R after the C…

It seems like Capita have managed to break what was previously a reasonably well-run process every time they have taken on responsibility for a process in the NHS, and I have come to the conclusion they have no idea what they are doing.

The Government and NHS seem to have no concept of the fact that cost is not always everything, and it’s the implementation of processes that is key. Do decision makers on these contracts have any first-hand experience of the realities of general practice?

To highlight some points, the recent debacle over payments not being correct each month, from superannuation being deducted for doctors who have left, to not deducting for some working, is an issue that I have complained about directly to Capita. After attending several meetings, my queries are still not answered to my satisfaction.

A GP retiring, having filled out all the forms in plenty of time, is told on the day before retirement that he needs to complete even more forms and that his pension will be delayed…

The most well-known issue is that since Capita has taken over the storage and distribution of patient records, turning this process into a major piece of work for practices. Gone are the days of getting a deduction, getting out the notes and a print-off, and then getting them picked up weekly.

That has been replaced with a lengthy process of accepting the deduction, waiting for a barcode label to be received, then putting notes into an individual polythene bag and labelling them - and you can only return those which are processed that way.

This means if you do not get the barcode you are in limbo, so we have notes requested last summer that still have not been collected. It is utter chaos and naturally that means there are substantial delays in receiving notes for newly registered patients.

We are currently waiting for over 150 notes to come in and have a similar number to send back. Yes, I am aware most notes are summarised, but there are often occasions when GPs want to see the notes and letters.

I have been told that some of the former providers of this service have masses of notes in storage that no one can account for and discussions are taking place to get them released.

Have you noticed that on any paperwork that they do not give you a telephone number to ring - isn’t that convenient? Instead you email them… and often this is ignored.

It seems Capita have taken on more than they can deliver and possibly were not aware of the systems needed to complete their contracts. I believe the NHS and others have been negligent in just looking at costs against service, rather than concentrating on doing the job correctly.

We are also advised that there are thousands of letters not being sent to practices and in some cases that could mean health issues that patients are unaware off.

If we behaved like Capita we would be sanctioned and have the CQC breathing down our necks.

So, what happens if the run on Capita continues, will it mean it could go under? Well, rule nothing out. However, when the finances of practices and patient care are at risk, I am not reassured that the Government have this and other similar issues under control. We can only wait and watch.

Stay tuned to the FPM Blog for all of the latest news that matters most to Practice Managers. Interested in becoming a member and taking advantage of a host of new time-saving tools and features with FPMS Pro? Take a look at our benefits of membership!


Malcolm Smith 08/02/2018

Could not agree more. Regular subject at Local Medical Committee meetings and there is a note of despair from local, regional and even national BMA staff that NHSE are not capable of recognising the scale of the problem, even after 18 months of terrible performance..

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