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NHS England ‘wasted £2.5m’ investigating misdirected clinical correspondence

by Valeria Fiore
6 June 2018

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The Public Account Committee (PAC) has declared that NHS England has been ‘too slow’ in reviewing mishandled  clinical correspondence.
In a report published today, the PAC lamented the way the health service is dealing with mistakes made by NHS Shared Business Services (NHSSBS) in forwarding misdirected correspondence sent to the wrong practices by hospitals.
The PAC said: ‘The NHS has wasted nearly two and a half million pounds reviewing the handling of misdirected clinical correspondence.’
Nearly 2,000 cases are still being assessed ‘to determine whether there has been harm to patients’, the report stated.
‘Patients are still in the dark’
Commenting on the report, PAC chair Meg Hillier MP said: ‘NHS England was slow to tackle this incident with the regrettable consequence that many patients are still in the dark about potentially critical correspondence.
‘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.’
The PAC is now calling on the NHS to address the issue promptly and ‘keep us abreast of the progress being made’.
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘In March 2016, NHS England established a team to review a backlog of clinical correspondence, reported at that time, by NHSSBS.
‘Since then, NHS England and the review team has worked closely with other GPs and contractors to review and assess 99.6% of NHSSBS and primary care support correspondence issues, putting in place clear processes to ensure correspondence is redirected where necessary, without delay.’
Basic administrative efficiency
More than one million documents needed to be reviewed following the NHSSBS incident, PAC said.
This grew from the 435,000 items of unprocessed clinical correspondence that NHSSBS initially flagged in March 2016.
Since 2015, practices have been required to return clinical correspondence for patients no longer registered at their practice to the original sender but they ‘are still sending around 5,000 to 10,000 items to Capita each month in error’, PAC said.
PAC said NHS England is planning a new communication strategy to make sure administrative staff working in GP practices understand the requirement.
Commenting on the report, the BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said:  ‘This publication is another damning indictment of NHS England’s inability to deliver basic administrative efficiency in back-office systems.
‘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.’