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NHS pays out £2m to GP surgeries for non-existent patients
9:00am Tuesday 8th October 2013 in News
ALMOST £2m in NHS cash is being wasted on more than 29,000 patients on Oxford GP registers who do not live here, new figures show.
Calls have been made for a Government investigation after data revealed 29,393 so-called ‘ghost patients’ – people who are either dead or have moved.
GPs receive £66.25 a year for every registered patient. A total of 181,920 patients were registered with GPs in Oxford compared to the population in the city council boundary of 152,527 in 2012, the most recent period for which figures are available. And concerns have been raised that the cash – which would pay for 136 trainee nurses – needs to be spent on more urgent healthcare priorities.
Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, said: “The apparent difference in these figures is quite extraordinary.
“It is vital to get to the bottom of which of these are actual patients and which are not.
“I have written to NHS England, which oversees GP provision, asking for a close scrutiny and explanation of the figures, together with an analysis of the financial consequences.
“The NHS is hard-pressed and any waste of money risks other patients losing out.”
Data from The Sunday Times reveals that £1,947,286 is being spent on ghost patients. Experts believe that as Oxford is a university city, it features high up the list because students tend to register with a doctor for three to four years before moving away.
Jacquie Pearce-Gervis of Oxford-based watchdog Patient Voice agreed that the figures were “alarming” and said she hoped extra efforts were made to solve the problem.
But GPs in the county blamed the system. Dr Neil Bryson, GP at Islip Medical Practice and a member of the Oxfordshire Local Medical Committee, said: “The Department of Health and the British Medical Association have been aware of this discrepancy for years and it’s the fault of the system of registration for patients at GP practices by the NHS, which isn’t at all perfect.
“It’s the national registration system that’s responsible for the list overinflation, rather than GPs deliberately failing to de-register patients who have died or left the area.”
Dr Prit Buttar, a GP in Abingdon, said: “Every few years, there is another attempt to remove ghost patients, but it’s difficult because there is so much movement.
“We had about 300 patients removed in early 2012 from our surgery. But the following month they turned up asking why they had been removed and so we had to reintroduce them into the system.”
Oxford GP Dr Joe McManners said: “No GP chooses to get extra money for having patients registered who are no longer in the area. They are not doing it deliberately.”
Tim Carter, of NHS England Thames Valley said: “It’s really important that patients keep their GPs informed if they are changing practices or leaving the area.”
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