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‘Ghost’ patients cost NHS more than £1 million a year in York
“GHOST” patients cost the NHS more than £1 million a year in York, it has been revealed.
There are about 16,000 more patients registered with GPs in York than there are people living in the city, costing the NHS about £1.05 million a year.
In Scarborough there are nearly 8,000 ghost patients, at a cost of about £500,000 and more than 1,000 in Harrogate, at a cost of about £75,000.
The costs are incurred because GPs are paid about £66 for each patient on their list, regardless of treatment.
The issue of ghost patients is one seen nationally – last year there were more than 2.2 million people registered with GPs than there were living in the country, costing £148 million, according to the figures from the Sunday Times.
Katherine Murphy, the chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “It is a scandal at a time when patients are seeing treatments rationed, less staff on the wards and a system which is creaking under pressure.
“The NHS has been dogged by costly IT failures, PFI [private finance initiative] projects and failures to manage its finances properly in recent decades. It is facing an unprecedented funding squeeze with billions of pounds to find in a budget which may in itself have a black hole of up to £30 billion.”
The growth in the number of ghost patients last year exceeded the rise in the population, suggesting the problem is getting worse.
Last year the National Audit Office examined 90,000 cases of ghost patients, concluding a third had died and a third had moved, but did not explain the rest.
The supervision of GPs is now the responsibility of NHS England following the abolition of primary care trusts.
Dr David Geddes, NHS England’s head of primary care, said: “In the majority of cases, GP practices work hard to keep their registered patient lists as accurate as they can and our area teams are working closely with them to achieve this.
“One of the main issues they face is that patients often fail to notify practices when leaving the area or country and this can mean that so-called ‘ghost’ patients remain registered.
“It is really important that patients keep their GPs informed if they are changing practices or leaving the area so that their registration can be amended.
“There can also sometimes be a short time lapse between updating national practice systems when a patient registers with another surgery, which can result in duplication. All efforts are made to ensure this is resolved as soon as possible.”
Typically many university towns and cities have a higher rate of ghost patients due to the transient nature of some of the population.
In the East Riding of Yorkshire, 94 per cent of the population is registered with a GP, in Selby 88 per cent and Hambleton 95 per cent.
Nationally, Reading has the highest number of ghost patients, with 138 per cent of the population registered with a GP.
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