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Capita set to re-start crackdown on GP practice ‘ghost patients’

Capita will shortly re-start the process of GP list cleansing to remove so-called ‘ghost patients’, it has been revealed.

The responsibility to vet GP lists for patients who are registered but no longer attend the practice was part of Capita’s original contract when it took on primary care support services in 2015.

However, the exercise was put on hold amid the upheaval faced by practices in the wake of the outsourcing, which saw NHS England cut 40% from its budget to provide such services.

NHS England said it had also kept it on hold while it worked out a ‘simplified’ checking process that would ‘reduce the administrative burden on practices’.

And, although Capita had originally been contracted to carry out GP list cleansing exercises annually, NHS England’s new update says it will now be done every three years.

An NHS England letter, addressed to practice managers, said: ‘Soon, PCSE will be recommencing the process of inviting GP practices, on a three-yearly basis, to reconcile their patient list with the National Health Application and Infrastructure Services (NHAIS) system held in PCSE and the Personal Demographic System (Spine).

‘Practices will receive a request via email from PCSE which will outline the steps required for them to submit a file of their patient list details to PCSE. The process of reconciliation will then identify any differences in the list recorded and individual differences (e.g. patient address).

‘Practices will be advised what administrative actions need to be taken on their clinical system to correct differences.’

The list cleansing exercise will begin with Capita ‘contacting practices to verify the registration details of patients aged over 100’, the letter added.

The letter said this will be followed by other groups as recommended by NHS England, including:

  • patients aged under 16 recorded as living alone;
  • patients recorded as living in demolished properties;
  • patients recorded as being registered at student accommodation for over four years;
  • addresses with apparent multiple occupancy;
  • transient patients.

The news comes as Pulse has previously revealed problems with list cleansing since Capita took on the primary care support contract in 2015.

In 2016, it was revealed that Capita had erroneously embarked on a list cleansing drive – flagging up to 15% of patients at some practices – despite the exercise of list cleansing still being under negotiations with the BMA GP Committee.

Meanwhile, pre-Capita list cleansing drives saw tens of thousands of genuine patients being removed off GP lists.

There removals persisted even where practices had already flagged patients as ‘validated’, leaving them out of pocket for the time sent identifying mistakes and causing distress to patients.

Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard said current ‘discrepancies’ between the population and patient numbers on GP lists were more likely due to problems with support services than ‘nasty, skiving, money-grabbing’ GPs.

He added: ‘It’s more a politically correct exercise than actually useful and creates more grief and pain for patients.

‘It’s not until they need us that they find out they have been struck off.’

GP practices have suffered years of administrative problems since Capita took on the primary care support contract.

And last week, the GPC renewed calls for the contract to be discontinued after Capita’s failure deliver nearly 48,000 items of correspondence relating to cervical cancer screening.