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NHS funding county GPs to serve 80,000 'ghosts'

By Niamh McIntyre

Doctor with stethoscope in hand on hospital background
Doctor with stethoscope in hand on hospital background

Thousands of patients are wrongly registered with doctors' surgeries in the area, according to analysis of patient records.

So-called “ghost patients” who are registered at a surgery but have either died or moved house, are a serious problem for the NHS, which allocates money to surgeries on the basis of how many patients are on their books.

The most recent estimates indicate that the population served by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group, which is in charge of commissioning healthcare services in the area, was 884,561. But there were 965,349 patients registered with GP surgeries on February 1 this year, which means up to 80,788 of these could be ghost patients – that accounts for about eight per cent of all those registered.

Based on the 2016-17 allocation of £135.99million to fund GP services, the CCG would receive around £149.31m for patients on the register in the coming financial year.

But if the population figure was used instead of the patient register, the funding would be £136.82m. This means as much as £12.5m could be allocated to ghost patients.

The number of ghost patients increases in areas with high student populations such as Cambridge, according to research published by the House of Commons Library.

The CCG said that list cleansing is managed by Primary Care Support England on behalf of NHS England, who were unable to respond before the Cambridge Independent went to press.


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