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Nearly 50,000 cervical screening letters failed to be delivered, says BMA

The British Medical Association (BMA) has written to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens after they discovered that almost 50,000 cervical screening letters and correspondence were not delivered to patients.

In their letter to Mr Stevens, they urged NHS England to end Capita’s contract for GP back office services after it failed to deliver correspondence relating to cervical cancer screening to 48,500 women.

They have said that the issue mainly relates to appointment invitations or reminder letters, but does include some screening results.

The GP Committee called Capita’s running of services ‘nothing short of shambolic’ and said it is ‘frankly appalling’ that the private company’s ‘gross error’ may have put patients at risk.

The BMA demanded that NHS England strip Capita of the contract and take Primary Care Support England (PCSE) services back in-house.

According to the BMA, NHS England has written to those affected and informed GP practices.

In response, the BMA said that it is ‘preparing practices’ for the understandable concerns and queries that patients are going to have.

The BMA said that while GPs and practice staff will do all they can to provide these women with support, they should not bear the brunt of rectifying the failings of a private company.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘This is an incredibly serious situation, and it is frankly appalling that patients may now be at risk because of this gross error on the part of Capita.

‘Some women will now be left extremely anxious because they have not received important correspondence, particularly letters about abnormal smear test results that need urgent follow up. This has been caused solely by Capita’s incompetence.’

He added: ‘Since it took responsibility for GP back room functions three years ago, Capita‘s running of these services has been nothing short of shambolic and after repeated warnings from the BMA and government, this is now clear evidence that its failings have put patient safety – and possibly lives – at risk.

‘It is ultimately NHS England that bears overall responsibility and it must now take this service back in-house. As the body which commissioned Capita to take on this work, despite clear warning signs that it was not up to the job, NHS England must shoulder the blame for this dreadful situation; you cannot outsource responsibility.’

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