PCTs may need to target immigrant and elderly patients in order to meet new GP list cleansing targets, says a DH advisory body.
The guidance Tackling List inflation from Primary Care Commissioning (PCC) recommends some areas with high inaccuracies in patient lists will have to carry out a "targeted approach" to reduce large numbers of 'ghost' patients "in one go".
Practice list cleansing has been included into the 2012/13 Operating Framework. The indicator – PHF06 – will measure the percentage of general practice lists reviewed and cleaned.
The PCC guidance cites successful targeted processes by PCTs in South Gloucestershire, South West Essex and West Berkshire, in which they managed to collectively remove around 24,000 'ghost' patients.
Such successful campaigns included sending verification letters to immigrants and elderly patients aged over 90 years old.
Following the sending of such letters, PCTs then initiate a FP69 action if no patient response is received, informing the relevant practice the patient will be removed within six months.
The PCC has defended the controversial nature of the guidance.
"It is difficult for GPs to tackle this issue of practice list cleansing without walking into controversy," Julian Patterson, a spokesperson for the PCC told GPB.
"We are simply telling NHS managers they have to tackle inaccuracies in patient lists but how they do so is up to them.
"We are certainly not proposing some unpleasant and unfair practice of removing some of the most vulnerable people from care."
Do you agree with the recommended targeted list cleansing approach? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Only fraud if done with intent and many of the elderly are from a generation who did not demand a dr because they sneezed twice so non attendance at GP does not equal never going to need to see a GP. I think there are really big dangers of vulnerable people being excluded from health care by this" – Name and address withheld
"Yes most certainly, 24,000 'ghost' patients, 24,000 payments for patients who don't exist. Fraud by any other name" – Marie, Lancs