Patients who haven’t seen GP for five years could be barred


- Credit: PA

Patients who do not visit their GP for five years could be removed from the practice list under radical proposals being developed in the region.

A Suffolk health boss last night outlined his concerns over the plans, created by the NHS England East of England regional team, to undergo a “list cleansing” drive in a bid to cut costs.

Under the initiative, people who have not seen their family doctor in five years will be sent two letters asking them to respond – if patients do not get in touch saying they want to be registered, they will be removed from the practice list.

GPs are paid for every patient on their list – in 2013/14, the average GP practice received funding worth £136 per registered patient – and the idea behind “list cleansing” is to find out whether patients no longer require services or have moved house, left the country or have died.

The NHS team said list validation was necessary “to protect NHS money and ensure patient lists are not artificially inflated”.

But Dr Paul Driscoll, chairman and medical director at the Suffolk GP Federation, said: “The payment to the GP practice takes into account every patient on their list including those who are seen very frequently and those who visit their GP on a less frequent basis.

“Previously where this move has been implemented in other parts of the country it has caused considerable distress to patients, especially those affected by mental health problems or with a learning disability. It has also been upsetting for patients who have tried to book an appointment to simply be told that they have been taken off the list.”

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Details of the plan were revealed in the trade magazine Pulse.

According to Pulse, the local area team will commission providers to write to patients and it has said that practices should not see an increase in work, although it has said there will be an increase in patients contacting them for clarification on the issue.

Nationally, health and care bosses have raised their concerns over the move.

Dr Richard Vautrey, the British Medical Association’s GP committee deputy chairman, said this type of scheme adds to GPs’ workloads and “irritates patients”.

Shadow care minister Barbara Keeley added: “These proposals are deeply troubling and could leave a number of patients without a GP.

“Patients should be confident that when they need to see their GP, they can. It’s completely irresponsible to arbitrarily strike people off a practice list because they are considered ‘too healthy’.”

However, Andrea Patman, head of commissioning for NHS England East, told Pulse: “Patients will not be removed from their practice list following confirmation they wish to remain registered with their practice.”