• Multiple delays moving a patient’s records north of the border blamed on outsourced English GP support system
  • NHS Scotland says it is working with Capita to improve the system
  • Capita says it is dependent on GP practices and storage sites

Medical record transfers from English GPs to Scotland are experiencing prolonged delays, HSJ has learned, with Capita’s troubled English GP admin service implicated by officials.

HSJ has obtained a letter from an NHS Scotland official confirming problems over the transfer of the records which, it indicates, deteriorated after England’s primary care support service was outsourced to Capita in 2016.

The letter explains how NHS Scotland sent multiple requests to Capita for one patient’s records, eventually having to escalate the issue to national management at the PCS service which the company runs for NHS England.

The letter says there were historic issues transferring records from England but notes that processes changed when Capita took over PCS, and says “the situation since 2016 has been difficult”.

NHS Scotland sent an initial, routine request to Capita in May 2018 when patient Bernard Saltmarsh registered at a new GP practice north of the border.

Four urgent requests followed: one in May, one in October, and two in November. NHS Scotland raised the issue with Capita’s PCS service management team in early December.

The delay was compounded by a further delay at Mr Saltmarsh’s GP practice, where staff were slow opening the package containing years of medical notes, according to a second letter sent to Mr Saltmarsh in January 2019. 

He told HSJ he first moved to Scotland from London in the summer of 2017. He registered with a GP, which tried to get his medical history from his old GP. After 10 months, his patient records had not arrived and as he changed practice the process started again. The record has recently arrived.

Mr Saltmarsh, who is in his 80s and has complex medical needs, did not suffer any adverse impact on his health and an NHS Scotland spokeswoman said the service was “working with Capita to help them improve the process of records transfer”.

Before 2016, the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales “worked largely in the same way to transfer records”, she added. “Processes and courier networks appear to be quite different now, we are working with Capita to ensure these link up better and any processes Capita implement include transfers to Scotland and that any escalation process put in place is one we can utilise to ensure we receive patient records more timely.”

In a statement, Capita said: “If a patient moves from England to Scotland, PCSE is responsible for collecting the record from the English practice and delivering it to one of the three practitioner services offices in Scotland. Currently, records collected are delivered to the practitioner services offices within 12 working days of release from the previous GP practice, in line with NHS England’s expectations.

“To ensure an efficient transfer of records, PCSE is highly dependent on GP practices and third-party storage sites being able to identify and release full records in a timely manner,” the statement added.