NHS England has been criticised for “wasting nearly two and a half million pounds” on trying to resolve backlogs of misdirected clinical correspondence.

The criticism came from the public accounts commitee (PAC) which has recently published a report of its March 2018 review of 162,000 items of correspondence which had gone undelivered.

NHS England uncovered this backlog during the commitee’s first inquiry into the problem, in October 2017. During that review, it was revealed 700,000 documents went undelivered between 2011 and 2016.

NHS England said the problems arose because a small proportion of GPs had not been complying with new arrangements introduced in May 2015. These state GPs are to return misdirected correspondence to the sender.

But a small number continued to send material to Capita, which is no longer contracted to return the correspondence.

The latest PAC report criticised NHS England for “wasting nearly two and a half million pounds” on reviewing the handling of the mix-up.

NHS England is also accused of being “far too slow to treat the issue seriously and take action”.

The report adds: “As a result, the problem got worse and remedial action for patients was delayed.

“Over the two incidents, one million pieces of clinical correspondence have not been handled appropriately.

“NHS England is still assessing nearly 2,000 cases to determine whether there has been harm to patients and has so far identified two incidents where expert consultant review has concluded that patient harm cannot be ruled out.”

Other conclusions include that NHS England failed to effectively communicate with GP practices about how they should handle misdirected clinical correspondence.

A number of the recommendations refer to NHS England coming back with un update in November 2018 and again in May 2019.

The PAC expects to see final number of items of misdirected correspondence identified to date, size of the current backlog of unprocessed correspondence plus updates on how communication between GP practices has been improved.

The first issue was raised in March 2016 by NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), which is one of a number of NHS and private providers responsible for clinical mail.

NHS SBS revealed approximately 435,000 items of clinical correspondence had been sent to the wrong GP.