Optical Confederation response to NAO report into NHS England management of PCSE

The Optical Confederation wholeheartedly endorses the conclusion of an NAO report published today (17 May) that the service to primary care practitioners from Capita and NHS England has fallen a long way below an acceptable standard.

Following its inquiry into NHS England’s management of the primary care support service contract with Capita, this hard-hitting report from the NAO found that ‘NHS England did not know enough about the services it inherited to set achievable service specifications and performance standards from the start of the contract’. There were also a lack of appropriate performance measures – for example, simply measuring if payments were made on time but not if they were accurate.

The NAO has called on NHS England to determine whether all current services within the PCSE contract are best delivered through that contract or whether some should be taken in-house by NHS England, and to consider the operational readiness of each service before agreeing to the implementation of any further transformation change.

Optical Confederation Chair Fiona Anderson said: “As the NAO points out, value for money is not just about cost reduction. Yet these poorly managed changes have been driven by the desire for savings, not the need to improve primary care services. The report highlights that the optical payments service is still unreliable. Indeed, once again this month payments due are being delayed to hard working practitioners struggling to provide essential and sight saving NHS care.

“It is only to be hoped that the Public Accounts Committee will pick this up to ensure that lessons are learned, that the sector will be listened to this time, and that we can now work jointly to deliver the much-needed modernisation of the GOS system, with properly agreed plans, timescales and support for the NHS front-line.

“NHS England, Capita and more importantly patients cannot afford another fiasco on this scale.”

The service provided by Capita has been disruptive for all primary care professions. Dentists, for example, have also experienced significant delays in getting an NHS performer number.

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, the British Dental Association’s Chair of General Dental Practice, said: “NHS England needs to take ownership over the grotesque mismanagement at Capita. Hundreds of NHS dentists have been unable to provide care for patients – or support their families – because officials were fixated on quick savings.

“There can be no excuses, and no buck passing. NHS England laid off a professional in-house team, and set the terms and the targets for Capita’s tenure. Today primary care professionals across England are still smarting because of their reckless and wholly unnecessary choices