NHS England’s decision to outsource primary care services to Capita led to additional workload for pharmacists, the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services (PSNC) has said.

In written evidence to a Government inquiry into the primary care support England (PCSE) services provided by Capita, PSNC said on Tuesday (18 June) that pharmacists experienced significant cashflow and workload issues.

The move follows a report by Government auditors the National Audit Office (NAO) that found NHS England’s £330m contract with Capita had the ‘potential to seriously harm patients’.

A Capita spokesperson told The Pharmacist: ‘We acknowledge mistakes were made in the initial stages of the contract and apologise for this.

‘As NHS England has recognised, Capita has addressed performance issues and will continue to work closely with all parties to improve the service.’


‘Considerable time wasted’


PSNC said there was no evidence that patient care had been ‘adversely affected’ by outsourcing services to Capita, but highlighted that it had led to additional workload for pharmacists.

In its evidence, PSNC said that pharmacists ‘wasted considerable time’ trying to obtain controlled stationery such as electronic prescription service tokens. Time was also wasted trying to contact the PCSE customer support centre and trying to obtain information on supplies, the negotiator said.

It added: ‘Contractors told us that often there was either no answer to their telephone calls or their calls were answered by somebody who could not provide any relevant information.’

Capita said that while there were initial issues with timelines in answering calls, its PCSE Customer Support Centre is now ‘consistently meeting the target for call answering times and resolving the majority of calls at first contact’.


Additional bank loans


PSNC’s evidence also stated that Capita services meant that some pre-registration students did not obtain their estimated £18,000 of monthly payments in 2017, with contractors incurring bank charges or additional bank loans to be able to pay them.

In response, Capita said that following the ‘issues’ with pre-registration training grants, improved processes were put in place and outstanding grants were paid. The service is now very stable, it added.


Ensuring lessons are learnt


PSNC director of operations and support Gordon Hockey said: ‘PSNC welcomed the opportunity to submit evidence to [the Government] and hopes the inquiry will help ensure lessons are learnt.

‘We’re pleased our work to raise the matter and pushes for improvements – as well as work with contractors, local professional committees (LPCs), NHS England and Capita – has had some impact, with services generally improving since 2016.

‘We will continue to work with Capita to ensure the improvements continue.’