NHS ghost-patients plan an 'absolute nuisance', says leading doctor

NHS removal of healthy patients is an 'Absolute nuisance for everybody', says Doctor Laurence Buckman

NHS patients who haven't been to their surgery for five years risk being removed from lists

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A former chair of the British Medical Association's (BMA) General Practioners' committee has slammed proposals for so-called 'ghost patients' to be removed from surgery record, describing the move as "an absolute nuisance for everybody". 

NHS England (NHSE) has announced new rules that will be brought in next month meaning patients who have not visited their doctor for five years will be removed from GP lists unless they respond to warning letters. After two letters, if there is no response from the patient they will be removed from the surgery's list of patients.

The move it intended to clean up patient records and save money on patients who have moved surgery or passed away.

Laurence Buckman, who chaired the BMA's GP committee fox six years between 2007 and 2013, believes the attempted purge of record is destined to fail.

"Many people who are so-called ghosts are not ghosts at all," he told Julia Hartley-Brewer. 

"They're [on the list] because the computer system the NHS uses doesn’t realise you came two weeks ago, it decides you've not been for five years.

"What the NHSE are proposing is to do it to absolutely everyone at once.

"These mass purges are an absolute nuisance for everybody. Staff and doctor time is wasted proving that patients exist."

A former chairman of the NHS Trust, Roy Lilley, disagrees. 

"They're going to write twice, and follow it up," he told Julia Hartley-Brewer. "How else could you do it? You could text people, or send them an email that people are more likely to respond to, but the NHS is a bit clunky and probably won't have the right [addresses].

"They are going to do this, there's no question, so I think we're just going to have to pay attention and look at the post."

Listen to the full interview above and let us know what you think of the proposals from NHS England