The Rise of Ghost Patients: Why Is It Happening?

The average GP in the UK receives £150 a year for each person on their patient list, with approximately 1,700 recorded patients per practice.

Last year, however, new reports surfaced showing higher number of recorded patients than the total number of people living in England. This number equated to an additional 3.6 million patients that were recorded on the system.

Many of these records are now being regarded as “ghost patients”, sparking an NHS investigation into this troubling phenomenon.

What are ghost patients?

Ghost patients are non-existent patients that reside on a GP’s patient list. Many of them can be explained by patients moving practices, leaving the country or passing away.

The high number of ghost patients on certain practice lists have led GPs to become suspicious of fraud. As a result, practices around the UK are being investigated.

What problems do ghost patients cause for the NHS?

Although it may seem like a simple admin oversight, ghost patients have a serious knock-on effect on how a practice provides care to its patients. The main problems experienced are:

1) High costs

The problem of high costs arises when a large number of GPs claim money for ghost patients. This in turn puts further strain on the NHS’s budget, as they are paying money for healthcare services that are not actually taking place.

In addition, it means that the total budget available to GP practices is being spread incredibly thin.

2) Real patients will suffer

The NHS has recently suffered from severe budget cuts that have affected everything from practice hours to medical resources. Along with the added costs, ghost patients prevent many people being treated properly at the time when they really need it.

3) Bad reputation

Due to their already strained budgets, the NHS is starting to develop a bad reputation because of the long waiting times and obvious staffing issues.

The misuse of taxpayers’ money is another issue the NHS will need to resolve.

What is the NHS doing to solve this problem?

The NHS is putting together a fraud squad that will investigate practice GPs in England to make sure that they are not claiming money for ghost patients.

The NHS will analyse every single patient recorded on a GP’s list and remove anyone who has not visited the practice in the last 5 years.

The benefit of this is that the money can then be put back into the NHS, helping to aid with areas that need more resources.

If you are a GP partner, it is important that you keep your patient lists up-to-date so that you don’t face further action. Tightening up your patient lists will also save you time and effort and reduce stress in the long-run.

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