Huge number of ‘ghost patients’ registered at Havering GPs

Photo: PA

Photo: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

There are almost 25,000 more patients registered to NHS services in Havering than there are people in the borough, according to newly released patient records.

So-called “ghost patients”, who are registered at a surgery but have either died or moved, are a serious problem for the NHS, which allocates money to surgeries on the basis of how many patients are on their books.

The most recent estimates indicate the population of Havering Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is 252,783 - but there were 277,449 patients registered with GP surgeries in the area on 1 February 2018.

This means up to 24,666 of these could be ghost patients, 9pc of all those registered.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) last updated its population estimates in mid 2016, so it is possible that population growth may account for some ghost patients.

But analysis of ONS figures shows that, between 2011 and 2016, the population grew by 1.2pc on average each year, so it is unlikely this accounts for all extra patients.

GP surgeries receive funding based on the number of people registered, while also taking into account key patient demographics like gender, age and disability.

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Havering CCG was allocated £36.45million from the NHS based on the number of registered patients in 2016/2017.

The funding formula is revised annually but based on these figures, the CCG would receive around £36.35 million for patients on the register in the coming financial year.

But if the population figure was used instead of the patient register it would be £33.12 million.

This means as much as £3.23 million would be allocated to ghost patients.

The health service has found no evidence that doctors are deliberately inflating patient numbers, and blames ghost patients on poor record keeping.

“Some people may be slow to re-register at other GP practices, despite having moved away from the area, as they are relatively healthy and do not see re-registration as a priority”, a report into the issue by the ONS found.

“People who live abroad, who are required to de-register from their GP practice, fail to do so either because they do not see it as a priority when moving abroad or because they wish to have continued access to the NHS.”