NHS England received a formal complaint last week from the Optical Confederation (OC) and Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) about Capita’s ongoing payment delays and errors.
Optometry practices have been hit by late and incorrect General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) payments, form order problems and customer service delays after Primary Care Support England (PCSE) services were transferred to Capita, the company contracted by NHS England, earlier this year.
In the formal letter sent to NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, Capita’s services are described as “still not fit for purpose.”
The letter, also sent to OT, outlined that: “Ophthalmic contractors have suffered a serious and significant financial impact and reduction in service levels since the migration of the processing of GOS claims to the PCSE offices in Leeds and Preston started earlier this year.
“The service is still not fit for purpose, despite our representatives having spent considerable time working with Capita and the NHS England service management team to explain the issues and agree and monitor a recovery plan that was produced by Capita on 6 May,” the letter noted.
“It is unacceptable that ophthalmic contractors continue to face delayed payments and a slow response to payment queries due to a fundamental lack of resources on Capita’s part, in terms of both insufficient staff numbers in the operational team and lack of knowledge and expertise in the customer service centre,” it emphasised.
The letter also highlighted the financial and administrative burdens placed on practitioners by the continued problems.
“We are not confident that the NHS England service management team are doing all [it] should to hold Capita to account for these failings. As a matter of urgency, we would therefore ask that NHS England acknowledges both the seriousness of this issue, and the impact that it is having on our sector,” the letter highlighted.
AOP chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, LOCSU managing director, Katrina Venerus, Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians chief executive, David Hewlett and Association of British Dispensing Opticians, Sir Anthony Garrett, and signed the letter.
Meanwhile, the British Medical Association’s General Practitioners Committee (GPC) has passed a vote of no confidence in Capita, following “months of concerns.”
Chair of the GPC, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, highlighted that: “We believe that the commissioned service [it] provide[s] for primary care support in England is putting patients at risk and has caused serious disruption for general practice.”
Following work by the OC and LOCSU, among other representative bodies, Capita had recruited more staff and committed to audit all GOS claims against the payments made at its Leeds office, where the affected GOS under- and over-payments were processed.
However, recent batches of GOS payments still contained a number of errors.
In response, the AOP has appointed a dedicated, temporary support professional to assist all NHS practitioners with their Capita payment and administrative problems.
Image credit: George Hodan