AN announcement that the NHS Counter Fraud Authority will be investigating GPs in England in regard to so-called "ghost patients" on practice lists has prompted a sharp response from the RCGP.
The BBC reports that NHS records show that last year there were 3.6 million more patients in the system than there were people in England and this discrepancy has prompted NHS England to start chasing up these so-called "ghost patients". The NHS Counter Fraud Authority has launched its own investigation to see if GPs have been fraudulently claiming for patients.
Responding to the report, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: "The insinuation that GPs – some of the most trusted professionals in society – are 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.
"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."