NHS fraud squad investigation into GPs making money out of ghost patients


“It is, of course, important to make sure that patient lists are kept as up-to-date as possible, so that resources are used where they are most needed – and our administrative staff already spend a lot of time processing patients’ notes when we are informed that they have died, left the surgery or moved elsewhere.”The average GP has around 1,700 patients on their list so payments for such cases would amount to around £255,000 a year. The payments go to practice income, from which GP earnings come.The fraud team have estimated that up to £88m may be being incorrectly claimed for – around 1 per cent of the GP budget.The discrepancies were uncovered by the business services company Capita, for NHS England, which has been involved in a “list-cleaning” exercise in a bid to update the lists.Attempts have been made to contact patients who have not visited their GP for several years, de-registering those who do not respond to contact. The NHS fraud squad is to investigate GPs amid suspicions they are claiming extra funds for “ghost patients”.GP practices receive £150 a year for each patient on their list.  But NHS records show there were 3.6 million more patients in the system last year than there were people in England.NHS Counter Fraud Authority is to launch an investigation as part of efforts to prevent £100 million of fraud annually across the health service.  Officials said their priority this year was to assess the discrepancies, and if they continue, to establish whether they were caused by fraudulent activity.GPs reacted angrily last night, saying it was “shocking” to suggest they would be complicit in such crimes.They said that “ghost patients” occurred as a result of administrative failings, when surgery lists were not updated frequently enough, after patients died or had moved house.Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The insinuation that GPs – some of the most trusted professionals in society – are complicit in defrauding the health service is shocking and will be incredibly hurtful for hard-working GPs and their teams who are struggling to deliver care to more than a million patients a day across the country, with insufficient time, resources or workforce to do so. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.

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