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1 March 2016, 14:20
Patients who do not visit their GP for five years could be barred from their doctor's surgery under plans being developed in the East of England.
Under the move, patients who have not seen their GP for five years will be sent two letters asking them to respond. If they do not get in touch to say they still wish to be registered with their GP, they will be removed from the GP practice list.
GPs are paid for every patient on their list - in 2013/14, the average GP practice received funding worth #136 per registered patient. The drive by the NHS England regional team - known as "list cleansing"- is intended to cut costs to the NHS.
The idea is to find out whether patients no longer require services or have moved house, left the country or died.
Pulse magazine, which published details of the plan, has also carried out its own investigations which suggests thousands of "ghost patients" have been inappropriately removed from GP lists in recent years.
The NHS England East of England team sent a letter to groups of GPs known as local medical committees (LMCs) stating that people who had not seen their GP for five years "may be the people who no longer require services" and may be in "incredibly good health".
It said list validation was necessary "to protect NHS money and ensure patient lists are not artificially inflated".
Dr Richard Vautrey, the British Medical Association's GP committee deputy chairman, said: "Schemes like this just add to GP workload and irritate patients. Many patients understandably believe that this is something the practice has done to them and don't realise that this has been carried out by NHS England.
It therefore needlessly undermines the relationship between GP and patient. Patients should not be punished for being too healthy and being careful about how they use NHS services."