NHS to bring cervical screening service back in-house following Capita problems

NHS chiefs are bringing the cervical screening service back in-house after expressing dissatisfaction at the way it has been performing.

Chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens told the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) the changes would come into force from June.

Referring to the cervical cancer screening system, Mr Stevens (pictured) told MPs: “That has been in recent years administered as part of the Capita primary care services contract.

“As you know, we have not been satisfied with the way in which that has been performing.

“And, indeed, as you also know, there was an issue last year that came to light when we were notified late by Capita about delays in letters going out.

“And, therefore, today I’m announcing that we are bringing the cervical screening service back in-house to the NHS from Capita beginning June and then a phased transition through the rest of the year.”

Health Minister Steve Brine said last November that blunders made by Capita which resulted in more than 40,000 women not being sent the appropriate smear test information were unacceptable.

Capita accepted full responsibility and apologised after 43,220 women did not receive cervical screening invitation and reminder letters inviting them to make a routine cervical screening appointment.

In some cases women received neither.

A further 4,508 women were not sent letters informing them of the result of their cervical screening.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni of the British Medical Association (BMA) said: “We have long been raising concerns about Capita’s frankly shambolic running of GP support services.

“And most notably called for their contract to be stripped when it was revealed at the end of last year that thousands of patients had not received vital information about cervical screening, potentially putting these them at risk.

“It is only right that NHS England has followed through and removed this service from Capita, and now any transition process must be robust and not be done as a cost-cutting exercise at the expense of patient safety.”

A Unison spokeswoman said: “We’re pleased to see the service returning to the NHS, but it should not have been privatised in the first place.

“It can be difficult enough to encourage young women to be tested and that becomes even harder when they have no confidence in the results due to this appalling failure.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire.