14 November: Primary Care Support England (PCSE), the contract delivered by Capita on behalf of NHS England, is addressing an issue relating to issuing invitation and reminder letters regarding cervical screening correspondence. Letters are being sent to all women who have experienced a delay in receiving cervical screening correspondence. Additionally, there has been an issue relating to issuing results letters.
All women aged between 25 and 64 are eligible for inclusion in the National Cervical Screening Programme, which involves screening most women for cervical disease every three or five years. As part of the contract with NHS England, PCSE supports the National Cervical Screening Programme by producing and sending invitation, reminder and results letters to eligible women.
For invitation and reminder letters, from January to June this year, approximately 43,200 women due to receive letters were sent an invitation letter or a reminder, but not both.
We are writing to the women who only received one letter to remind them to book an appointment and to apologise for the delay in sending a reminder letter. The scale of the screening programme should be borne in mind: approximately nine million letters are produced and sent each year to women in England.
For results letters, GPs are responsible for care, including contacting women who require further examination. GPs or screening clinics have the primary responsibility to notify women of their test result. PCSE additionally sends letters to women informing them of their screening result and these letters are not part of the referral process. A total of 4508 results letters have been delayed this year. Only a small proportion of these results required further examination, and they should all have been contacted directly by their GP.
The risk to women of this incident is low and there is no current evidence of harm, but Capita nevertheless apologises to both the NHS and to the women whose correspondence was delayed.
We have investigated the precise circumstances around this incident, and it is clear that the correct process for uploading, organising and checking datafiles was not properly followed. When the problem was discovered, it was not immediately escalated to senior leadership, or NHS England, by the individuals responsible. Capita is investigating the managerial handling of the matter and taking appropriate disciplinary action. Additionally, a senior executive responsible for this contract has already left Capita.
We have appointed an independent audit team, led by PwC, to carry out a detailed review into operational systems and processes in PCSE. We have upgraded checks in place at every stage of the process and offered NHS England additional resource as this issue was resolved.