By Gareth Iacobucci
Nearly 40,000 patients were removed from GP practice lists in just one PCT yesterday as part of a tough new list cleansing exercise.
It comes after Pulse first revealed back in March that between 10-40% of patients could be stripped from practice lists under an unprecedented list-cleansing drive by NHS managers in Brent.
In a passionate debate at the LMCs conference in London, in which GPs called on the GPC to negotiate a 'fair national policy for list validation', Dr Tony Grewal, medical director of Londonwide LMCs, revealed that 38,000 patients were removed in NHS Brent, in moves he labelled 'appalling'.
Dr Grewal said: 'As of last night, 38,000 patients in one PCT have no longer got a registered GP. 11% of patients have been de-registered at a stroke.'
'This is a cynical attempt to take money out of primary care where it can do good, and putting it into the black hole of secondary care.'
The tough measures saw every patient who had not visited their surgery within the last six months and who failed to respond to two written notices wiped from targeted practices' lists, in moves Dr Grewal described as 'morally bankrupt'.
He said: 'They are timing the mailshots [to patients] when people are out. One batch was sent out at the end of December. This is appalling, and produces problems for practices and huge patient dissatisfaction.'
Dr Grewal said the vulnerable and elderly were being removed from lists, and received huge applause as he warned: 'The people who need us most are being thrown away by organisations that are financially, intellectually and morally bankrupt.'
Dr Martin Lindsay, a GP in Haringey, said his practice had lost 1,000 patients from a list of 11,000, and urged GPs to back the motion.
Dr Patrick Keating, a GP in Enfield, said 10% of his patient list was removed overnight last year, and said it took his practice a year to eventually receive money that had been erroneously taken.
He said: 'PCTs can be ruthless when they want to save money. 10% of my list was removed overnight. We were paid back through a LES, but it took 12 months. I beg GPC negotiators to put in place preparations to ensure no financial hardship for GPs.'
A spokesperson for NHS Brent confirmed that 38,000 patients were removed from GPs' lists yesterday.
'Reducing expenditure on ghost patients allows us to focus on the real health needs of the people of Brent,' she said. 'The number of people registered with Brent GPs is roughly 100,000 more than the census population. We recognise that Brent has a rapidly changing population, so the census figure may not be accurate, but we expect that there is a large number of ghost patients, probably around 10% of the registered list.'
'We take our duty of care to real patients extremely seriously. We are therefore planning to write once more to all the names and addresses that are removed from lists, with the exception of those whose post was returned "undelivered" by Royal Mail. This will be the fifth letter on this subject from us to these patients. The letter will explain what has happened and give detailed instructions on how to reregister with their old GP, or another practice.'
'We are confident that this will minimise any inconvenience to any genuine patients left in the process.'Click here for more from the LMCs Conference LMC Dr Tony Grewal