South Tyneside health watchdog’s concern over move to axe GP ‘ghost patients’

Patients who do not visit their GP for five years face the risk of being removed from the surgery list
Patients who do not visit their GP for five years face the risk of being removed from the surgery list
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South Tyneside’s health watchdog has vowed to keep an eye on moves to remove so-called ‘ghost’ patients from GPs’ lists.

Under the new scheme, anyone who does not visit their GP for five years faces being axed from the doctor’s surgery.

Healthwatch South Tyneside is watching this emerging initiative closely, particularly in relation to safeguards for those who are most vulnerable and might be taken off a GP list in error and miss out on vital tests or reviews.

Sue Taylor

Patients are sent two letters, but if they cannot be contacted to say they still wish to be registered with their doctor, are removed from the practice list.

The move is aimed at saving cash for the NHS. GPs are paid an average of about £136 for every patient on their list, even if they never see them.

Sue Taylor, chairman of Healthwatch South Tyneside,said the organisation had concerns about the move.

“Healthwatch South Tyneside is watching this emerging initiative closely, particularly in relation to safeguards for those who are most vulnerable and might be taken off a GP list in error and miss out on vital tests or reviews,” she said.

“Healthwatch South Tyneside will endeavour to influence the process through NHS England - if implemented the process for taking patients off GP lists needs to be effectively risk managed and clear and understandable to all sectors of the community.”

NHS England has employed Capita to lead the drive – known as “list cleansing” – and find out whether patients no longer require services, have moved house, left the country or died.

But Pulse magazine says its investigation suggests thousands have been inappropriately removed from lists and GP leaders fear the scheme could mean patients miss on vital appointments or checks.