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‘Ghost’ removal from GP lists saves £6.1 million

GPs ‘generally manage patient lists well’ but audit found 95,000 anomalies

Louise Prime

Thursday, 23 February 2012

GPs generally manage their patient lists well but the Audit Commission says it has nonetheless saved the NHS £6.1 million in one year alone by removing 95,000 ‘ghosts’ in its latest crackdown on duplicates and other anomalies.

The Commission reported that in its National Duplicate Registration Initiative (NDRI) exercise, for 2009/10, it compared GPs’ lists in England and Wales with those of other GP practices, and with other data sources, to look for duplications and other anomalies. These can result from:

  • a patient not being removed from their original GP’s list when they move house and join another practice
  • a patient remaining on a GP’s list after their death
  • a patient whom the UK Border Agency has removed from the country still being on their former GP’s list.

The Commission reports that 95,000 such patients’ records were removed from lists for 2009/10, once it had followed up all the potential duplicates and anomalies it found. It calculated that at an average cost to the NHS of £64.59 per GP patient, this represents a saving of £6.1 million for the year.

Andy McKeon, the Audit Commission’s managing director of health, said: “The NHS and GPs generally manage patient lists well - at any one time there are some 58 million records and many movements on and off lists.”

He pointed out that some areas had been rigorous in following up NDRI leads, for example in Manchester where the records of 200 deceased people were removed. But he went on to criticise some PCTs’ lack of follow-up after they had been told about NDRI matches. He also referred to 157 patients, dead since before 1980, whose GPs were still being paid to have them on their lists.

“The NDRI and active follow-up locally of duplicates and other anomalies, has resulted in £6.1 million annual savings. It is disappointing that some areas did not rigorously follow-up the information provided by NDRI, which would have resulted in more savings,” he claimed.

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