Ghost patients 'nothing sinister' – and the insinuation GPs are complicit in fraud is 'shocking’, says RCGP

Publication date: 12 June 2019

Responding to reports that the NHS Counter Fraud Authority has launched an investigation into 'ghost patients' on GP lists, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"The insinuation that GPs – some of the most trusted professionals in society - are complicit in defrauding the health service is shocking and will be incredibly hurtful for hard-working GPs and their teams who are struggling to deliver care to more than a million patients a day across the country, with insufficient time, resources or workforce to do so.

"It is, of course, important to make sure that patient lists are kept as up-to-date as possible, so that resources are used where they are most needed – and our administrative staff already spend a lot of time processing patients' notes when we are informed that they have died, left the surgery or moved elsewhere.

"But so-called ‘ghost patients’ are nothing sinister - they are the result of a records management issue, not a case of surgeries deliberately profiting by keeping patients on their lists when they shouldn't be there.

"People's circumstances, and therefore, our records, change all the time. Some practices, particularly in inner-city areas, have quite a high rate of turnover, and patients don't always tell us if they are moving on. It’s just an inevitable consequence of having a list in the first place.

"It's also important that whilst we work to ensure patients who shouldn’t be on the list are ‘removed’, it’s equally important to make sure those who should be there are protected and not taken off without good reason, or before notifying them beforehand.

"We appreciate that it is NHS England's responsibility to review patient lists and put the appropriate measures in place to ensure that methods of doing this are safe. But to publicise that they are getting their in-house ‘fraud squad’ involved, as well as outsourcing the task to a company that many healthcare professionals across the country have little faith in to do a good and fair job, is demoralising for GPs and a questionable use of scant NHS resources."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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