List cleaning costs GPs up to £80,000

Aggressive list cleaning forces practices to re-register hundreds of patients.

Practices in London have reported losses of up to £80,000 because of aggressive PCT list-cleaning operations.

One practice lost 1,100 of its 6,500 patients after its PCT wrote to nearly all male patients and removed any who did not respond, according to Londonwide LMCs. Others have had to re-register up to 200 patients.

West London GP Dr Ramesh Bhatt said he had to re-register a 'staggering' 60 patients after list cleaning by Ealing PCT.

'These patients have often been very concerned and irritated, and it is hard to explain to them why this has happened without warning,' he said.

'Often, they wrongly assume it is the practice's fault - all we can do is pick up the pieces and hope patients come back.'

An Ealing PCT spokesman said patients have 30 days to reply to an initial letter, and 14 days for a follow-up one. Practices then have six months to contact them.

'Records have to be as accurate as possible,' he said, because patient data was used to align services with local needs.

Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage said practices were being targeted despite London's notoriously mobile population.

GPC chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said aggressive list cleaning often unnecessarily removes patients from lists: 'Periodically payment agencies and PCTs try to do this. But so-called "ghost patients" are not as widespread as they think.'

Dr Vautrey said PCTs should effectively exception report patients they wish to remove.

'What is not acceptable is to remove patients without good evidence that they have left the country or have moved away permanently. The standard in QOF is to send a patient three letters before you can exception report them.'

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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