A new report shows that the England’s health service has around 3.6 million so-called ghost patients, or people on doctors’ register books who do not exist or have changed their location, with the UK government allocating around half a billion pounds to treat them each year.
The report published in the Mail on Sunday said the number of people who have died or moved away while still registered at practices across England is rising by nearly 6,000 a week.
General practitioners in England receive £151 a year for each patient on their books regardless of whether they attend appointments or not. The total money allocated to those missing patients amounts to £550 million a year, according to Labour Party lawmaker Meg Hillier, who chairs the Commons public accounts committee.
“At a time of severe strain on NHS budgets, this could be diverted elsewhere on patients who need it,” Hillier said, adding, “The fact that the number of ghost patients keeps going up underlines the chaotic nature of back office functions within the NHS.”
The NHS England employed a private company two years ago to cleanse its lists of the ghost patients. That sparked concerns that patients who had not visited their GP for five years could have been removed from the practice list as well.
The NHS Digital says 59.2 million people are registered with a GP in England. However, the figure shrinks by around 3.6 million while seen on the logbooks of the Office for National Statistics, according to the Mail on Sunday.
NHS England admitted that ghost patients are calculated in budget allocations, saying that hard work was underway to correct the lists.
“GP practices work hard to keep their registered patient lists as accurate as possible,” said a spokesman for the organization, adding, “… any savings identified will be ploughed back into the NHS.”