GPs make 162m out of 'ghost' patients: Anger over bill for 2.5m non-existent people
55 million people registered with a doctor in England – despite population being 52.5mSurgeries regularly fail to update patient lists when people die or move away32,668 dead patients were on lists, including 157 who died more than 30 years ago10,000 failed asylum seekers who had left the country were on the books
The NHS is paying GPs to look after 2.5million ‘ghost’ patients, ministers admitted last night.
Doctors are receiving an estimated 162million a year – footed by the taxpayer – for non-existent patients on their books who have moved house, left the country or been dead for up to 40 years.
The Audit Commission has counted that in a single year at least 95,000 such ‘ghost’ patients were registered with GPs and earning them annual payments. But the Department of Health last night admitted there are probably up to 2.5million such patients on doctors’ lists in England.
Empty: The NHS are paying doctors millions each year to look after 'ghost' patients who are on their surgeries' books but who have moved house, left the country or died
Every year GP surgeries are paid an average of 65 for each patient they have on their books, regardless of how often – or whether – they make an appointment or what treatments they receive.
Although there are currently 55million patients registered with GPs, there are only 52.5million actually living in England.
It means the NHS is potentially wasting 162.5million every year on ghost patients.
Outraged: Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association wants to know why taxpayers' money was wasted in this way
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said it was ‘outrageous’ that money was being wasted to treat patients ‘that only exist within NHS bureaucracy’.
Surgeries are meant to keep their lists up to date and take patients off when they die or move away, but this is frequently overlooked.
In some cases doctors have been found to be deliberately keeping patients on their books to earn themselves extra cash.
Last year the Mail revealed that four doctors at a surgery in Streatham, south London, were being investigated over a scam in which they were claimed to have 3,000 patients on their books who did not exist or had false information on their records that brought in extra NHS cash.
Of the latest findings, Mrs Murphy added: ‘At a time when the NHS is being asked to make huge efficiency savings the Government needs to provide answers as to how money was wasted in this way.’
In its extensive investigation the Audit Commission, the Government’s spending watchdog, compared surgery lists to check patients were not registered with more than one GP if they had moved house.
The officials also compared these lists with Government records of deaths and data on failed asylum seekers who have since been deported.
When officials came across patients registered with two surgeries, or those recorded as being dead or deported, they contacted the local NHS body which asked practices to check that their lists were up to date.
Health Minister Lord Howe, left, said that the NHS needed to make the best use of funds available while Andy McKeon said it was disappointing some areas had not followed up information provided by the investigation
The investigation, called the National
Duplicate Registration Initiative (NDRI), covered 2009 to 2010. It
found there were up to 32,668 dead patients on lists – including 157 who
had died more than 30 years ago.
Officials even came across one surgery which was being paid every year to treat a patient who had died in 1969.
A further 29,416 patients had moved house and were registered with a different GP, but both their old and new surgeries were being paid for treating them. Another 20,000 patients were removed from the lists when officials found they were not living at the address shown on the books.
The officials also discovered 10,000 failed asylum seekers were on GPs’ books even though they had since been returned to their home country.
Not all surgeries flagged up by the Audit Commission for having high numbers of ghost patients bothered to check their lists.
Health minister Lord Howe said: ‘The NHS needs to make the best use of the funds it has available and avoid giving GPs extra income for patients who have moved away or died. Identifying ‘ghost patients’ will ensure that practices are fairly funded only for the patients they are responsible for.’
Andy McKeon, managing director of health at the Audit Commission, said: ‘The NHS and GPs generally manage patient lists well – at any one time there are some 58million records and many movements on and off lists.
‘It is disappointing that some areas did not rigorously follow up the information provided by NDRI.’
David Stout, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS staff, said: ‘It is important to make sure that lists of registered patients are up to date and accurate.
‘Being able to plan and offer the most appropriate care for local people depends on accurate information.’