GP practices could strike off ‘ghost patients’ from lists after five years of no contact

NHS cost-cutting measure will ‘increase workload and reduce funding’, GPs warn

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 20 July 2016 09:31 BST
Doctors have hit out at plans to de-register patients after five years of no contact, saying it could put some groups at risk
Doctors have hit out at plans to de-register patients after five years of no contact, saying it could put some groups at risk (iStock)

Patients who do not contact their GP once every five years face being removed from surgery lists as part of an NHS cost-cutting drive.

After five years without contacting their doctor, patients will be sent two letters asking for a response. If they fail to reply, they will be removed from their GP’s list.

GPs will then be required to provide outsourcing firm Capita with annual lists of suspected “ghost patients”.

NHS England plans to introduce the scheme to all 8,000 surgeries following a trial, according to GP website Pulse.

The scheme will save the NHS around £100 for each patient removed.

But GPs have branded the plans as “disgraceful”, and said it will increase their workload and result in them losing funding.

Despite these concerns, NHS England is pushing ahead with implementation.

An NHS spokesman said: “PCSE [Primary Care Services England] supports the maintenance of GP lists by undertaking a number of activities, including writing to patients who have not contacted their registered practice within five years, as this could be an indicator that the patient has moved away.

“The National Audit Office and House of Commons Public Accounts Committee have all drawn attention to the need to ensure accurate patient lists, and for proper stewardship of public funds.”

Doctor Tony Grewal, medical secretary of Londonwide Local Medical Committees (LMCs), told Pulse the scheme could put some patients at risk, including children and middle aged men, and would “inconvenience large numbers” of other patients.

He said: “It’s disgraceful behaviour in this time of extreme pressure and completely goes against the principles of the GP Forward View and the acknowledgement that general practice needs support at this stage and not further onerous burdens which are simply there to take money away from practices.”

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