Leading article: Too little clarity on GPs' powers over problem patients

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There is no question that GPs should be able to rid their practices of troublesome patients.

But today's report from the health service ombudsman reveals an alarming increase in complaints from patients "struck off" without warning, and details multiple examples of unfair treatment. In one particularly disturbing case, an entire family was left without a GP at a time of acute stress.

The problem is one of clarity. There are guidelines governing the removal of patients from practice lists. But too often they are simply being ignored. Equally, patients themselves are not sufficiently aware of either their rights or responsibilities.

The situation must be remedied forthwith. With GPs' powers set to widen markedly under the Government's proposed NHS reforms, it is more important than ever that complaints are handled effectively.