Doncaster GP slams plan to remove 'ghost patients' from surgery lists after five years

Dr Dean Eggitt at his surgery in Doncaster
Dr Dean Eggitt at his surgery in Doncaster

A Doncaster GP has criticised plans to remove patients from surgery lists if they do not contact their doctor for five years as part of an NHS drive to save money.

The proposals were announced by NHS England earlier this week, who say the scheme will ensure that it does not waste vital funds by paying GPs about £100 a year for looking after what they call 'ghost patients' those who have died, moved away or no longer want their local surgery’s services.

But Dr Dean Eggitt, of the Oakwood Surgery in Cantley, said the plans will have a detrimental impact on all patients.

Dr Eggitt, who represents the borough's GPs nationally in his role as a medical secretary, added: "We know that with the way that funding in the NHS works, the well patients look after the sick ones.

"These plans will result in surgeries that are already struggling to cope receiving less funding.

"This will lead to services being cut, and not run as well, or being closed down completely.

"I cannot see how these plans will benefit patients in any way."

An NHS England spokesperson said: “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.

"We doubt that contractual change would be needed but, should it be, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.”

The initiative was brought to light by Pulse, a website for GPs, after it discovered that NHS England plans to introduce the deregistration scheme at all 8,000 GP surgeries across England following a trial.

According to Pulse, NHS England has drawn up a contract with Capita that sets out how the company will go about de-listing patients.

It says: “The supplier shall contact all GP practices in the 11th month of every contract year requesting a list of all patients who are recorded as not having had contact with the GP practice in the past five years."

After it has received those lists, Capita will contact each patient 'within 10 working days' to check their 'current address and registration details'.

If the patient does not reply they will face being removed from the practice list within six months if the GP still cannot contact them.