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Independents' Day

Checks reveal that 185,000 ghosts are haunting GP lists

Dead patients have languished on GPs' lists unnoticed for up to forty years, a report into ghost patients reveals.

The report also identified a patient who had registered at more than 60 practices. More than 10,500 patients still on GPs' lists had been dead for longer than 15 years.

The Audit Commission's National Duplicate Registration Initiative identified 185,000 ghosts, which were contributing £9.5 million to practices in capitation payments.

Details of 56 million patients registered in England and Wales were cross-referenced with Department for Work and Pensions records of deaths and also checked for duplication and incorrect spellings.

Weaknesses identified in the registration process included failure to verify patients had filled in registration forms correctly, mistyping of names and illegible writing. The Department of Health said practices were obliged to ensure that lists were up-to-date and correct.

A spokesman said: 'The report shows the NHS is making a spirited effort in busting ghost patients.'

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, said it was to the benefit of GPs to ensure lists were correct because it made it easier to reach quality targets.

He said: 'There is no economic argument for hanging on to ghosts.'

Dr Niti Pall, a GP in Smethwick, said PCTs also needed to tighten up their procedures.

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