Millions of patients’ confidential medical records are to be passed to a private company, despite an appeal from UNISON for the secretary of state for health to reconsider his decision to award the £1bn primary care support contract to Capita.
The signing of the contract today (Tuesday) also means that hundreds of people who currently work for NHS England are to lose their jobs when most of the existing local primary care support offices close across the country this autumn.
The contract gives Capita responsibility for the handling of millions of patients’ medical records, and administrative systems that are at the heart of the NHS.
Last month UNISON wrote to the health secretary Jeremy Hunt urging him to reconsider the decision to award the contract but he failed to respond. Capita will take over the primary care support services contract in England from 1 September.
Commenting on the decision, UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “Millions of patients’ medical records are now to be handed over to a private firm, without any public consultation whatsoever. And hundreds of dedicated NHS staff – whose work is essential to the efficient running of the health service, will lose their jobs.
“Private companies should not be making a mint out of essential services that are the very backbone of the NHS. Local knowledge will be lost as Capita closes all but two of the existing regional offices. It is hardly in the spirit of patient consultation that this entire process has taken place behind closed doors, with the public none the wiser and employees affected largely kept in the dark.
“Private companies have a poor track record when it comes to promising huge benefits and savings from technology driven solutions in the NHS. With so much confidential and highly personal information at stake, the government must keep a close eye on the progress of this huge contract.”
Primary care support services staff currently look after medical records, prescription payments and the administrative and financial support to GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists. They also include support services for recall and results letters for breast and cervical cancer screenings.