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GPs left out of pocket after botched list-cleansing drive

Exclusive Practices have suffered lasting payment disruptions and inconvenience after a botched list cleansing initiative by NHS Shared Business Services saw registered patients deleted despite being flagged as active by GPs.

Potentially thousands of patients may have been deleted incorrectly by the error, but NHS SBS, who operated the list cleansing in Devon, say these have now been restored.

However, local leaders have warned that the work involved in identifying thousands of patients who were wrongly removed has left practices out of pocket.

It follows a Pulse investigation last year that found hundreds of thousands of patients had been wrongly removed from patient lists by local area teams, while NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens warned in October that GPs would continue to face a crackdown on ‘inflated lists.

But this latest error is thought to be the first incidence where removals happened despite GPs confirming the patient as active.

Minutes from Devon LMC stated: ‘Members discussed the recent list cleanse undertaken by NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) and the number of mistakes being made with large numbers of patients being removed from a practice list.

‘The practice has highlighted [the patient’s correctly registered] on their systems for NHS SBS to review however the patients have still been removed. Inappropriate removals are resulting in unhappy patients attending the practice in order to be reregistered, thus causing more work for the practice.’

A spokesperson for NHS SBS told Pulse they had carried out ‘a routine list maintenance exercise on behalf of NHS England’ in Devon to address inaccuracies where former patients have failed to notify the practice they have moved.

They added: ‘During the list maintenance process, of those patient records removed, fewer than 1% were incorrectly deleted. These were identified and swiftly rectified, with no financial impact on GP practices.’

However, they refused to release either the number of incorrect deletions or total deletions figure.

But Angela Edmunds, director of operations at the LMC, said ‘practice reported as many as 200 patients being erroneously removed’.

Devon LMC interim medical secretary Dr Mark Sanford-Wood told Pulse that anecdotal evidence suggest that the whole total of erroneous deletions is closer to 1% of the whole population in Devon – around 11,000 patients.

He said: ‘There is a world of difference between incorrect deletions in 1% of those deleted and in 1% of the total practice population. Reports to Devon LMC from practices strongly suggest the magnitude of the problem is closer to the latter figure.’

Dr Sanford-Wood added that ‘many practices had artificially depressed list sizes on [1 January] as a result of NHS SBS’s error’.

Devon LMC has agreed with NHS England that ‘retrospective balancing payments will be made once the erroneous deletions have been rectified’, he said.

However, he added: ‘These payments take no account of the cost in time to the practices of the work required to identify the errors.’

Pulse has reported the ongoing payment chaos GPs have been contending with since the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act, with missed and delayed payments and indecipherable invoices causing problems for practice finances.