NHS England has instructed Primary Care Support England (PCSE) to temporarily stop issuing requests for GPs to validate its list cleansing activities.
The hunt for ‘ghost patients’ on GP lists has been suspended until February, when the decision will be reviewed, the BMA told GPs.
NHS England will also remind PCSE that GP practices have a contractual right to be given a 30-day deadline to validate list cleansing requests.
BMA GP Committee lead for PCSE Dr Ian Hume told Pulse the measures come as the GPC ‘was made aware that some practices were receiving a request from PCSE to provide information for the list validation with a five-day deadline’.
Dr Hume acknowledged that the ‘routine process’ of list validation – which ensures patients who have died or registered elsewhere are no longer counted towards a GP practice’s funding is ‘important to ensure practices receive correct payments’.
But he complained that PCSE had made requests for practices ‘to undertake additional and bureaucratical administrative work’ in the period ‘just before Christmas’ ‘when practices were also being asked to prioritise clinical work and Covid vaccination boosters and were also struggling with staff absences’.
He said: ‘GPC approached PCSE and NHS England, who agreed to suspend these requests in the short term to allow practices to concentrate on priority clinical issues.
‘GPC will work with PCSE to ensure the burden on practices is kept to a minimum and keep the requirement under review.’
According to the GPC, NHS England has agreed to instruct PCSE to stop sending list validation requests until the beginning of February ‘when the decision will be reviewed’.
In a recent bulletin, the GPC said it had also ‘challenged’ PCSE requirements to respond to its list validation requests within five working days.
‘NHS England agreed with us that the contractual requirement is 30 days and will raise this with PCSE’, it said.
However, ‘if the wording remains unchanged when these requests are resumed, we would advise practices that they can use the full 30 days,’ the bulletin added.
The news comes as GP practices are facing extra pressure as they struggle with Covid staff absences, with around 95% experiencing higher levels of staff off sick than usual as a result of the Omicron wave.
List validation was previously paused in April 2020 to free up time for practices to focus on Covid, but was reintroduced from October in the same year.