NHS England ‘wasted’ millions reviewing handling of misdirected clinical letters, MPs say
[London, UK] NHS England has ‘wasted’ £2.4m reviewing the handling of incidents that saw more than one million pieces of clinical correspondence be misdirected, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said.
Until May 2015, when new arrangements were introduced, NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) was responsible for redirecting patient correspondence sent to the wrong GPs, but in March 2016 NHS England was notified that nearly half a million letters had not been processed, discovering new backlogs during the following months.
NHS England said that more than one million documents had to be reviewed in the wake of the incidents, discovering that in two cases patient harm could not be 'ruled out’.
NHS England is said to still be reviewing approximately 2,000 cases, but MPs say they need ‘further assurance’ that the incident will be properly handled, asking to receive an update by November 2018.
A new communication campaign was set to be launched this May to ensure that practices understand the requirements of returning misdirected letters to senders, but up to 10,000 items are still said to be mistakenly sent to Capita, provider of primary care support services, every month.
Plans are reportedly in place to introduce a tagging system that would provide improved datasets to ensure this guidance is ‘more targeted’.
MP Meg Hillier, PAC Chair, said:
“Basic administrative efficiency should not be difficult to deliver. The systemic nature of this incident is a big concern and money which should have been spent on patients has instead been spent cleaning up the mess.
“NHS England must move to resolve this definitively and keep us abreast of the progress being made."
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA Committtee Chair, said the new PAC report was ‘another damning indictment of NHS England’s inability to deliver basic administrative efficiency in back-office systems’.
“Ever since the scale of the problem became clear, the BMA has been pressuring NHS England to get an action plan in place, including a guarantee of proper funding for practices to deal with the resulting increase in workload.
“However, if NHS England had managed the situation properly then it would not have needed to spend £2.4m resolving the issue, and this could have been money instead spent on patient services and practices struggling with unmanageable workloads and bureaucracy," Dr Vautrey added.