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GPs have up to 3.6 million patients their books who don’t actually exist, according to reports.
The number of so-called ‘ghost patients’ is rising by nearly 6,000 a week, with people who have died or moved away still registered at practices across the country, The Mail on Sunday reported.
Labour MP Meg Hillier, chairman of the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, told the newspaper that as much as £550 million was being wrongly allocated to GPs with ‘ghost patients’ on their books.
Doctors in England reportedly receive an average of £151 per year per patient on their books – whether they attend appointments or not.
Ms Hillier told the Mail on Sunday: “At a time of severe strain on NHS budgets, this could be diverted elsewhere on patients who need it.
“The fact that the number of ghost patients keeps going up underlines the chaotic nature of back office functions within the NHS.”
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According to the Mail, data from NHS Digital shows 59.2 million people are registered with a GP in England, while the Office of National Statistics puts the current UK population at 55.6 million – leaving a gap of 3.6 million.
In July 2016 it emerged NHS England had employed private firm Capita to carry out “list cleansing”, axing patients who do not visit their GP for five years from the practice list.
A spokesman for NHS England said it factors ghost patients into its budget allocations.
The spokesman said: “GP practices work hard to keep their registered patient lists as accurate as possible and NHS England is working with Capita and GP surgeries to transform this process, make it digital and any savings identified will be ploughed back into the NHS.”
A spokesman for Capita added: “This is a complex area involving GPs and other third parties. Alongside other improvements we are making, we are working closely NHS England who are consulting on proposed changes and guidance that will enable us to start targeted data quality checks on GP lists as part of our services.”