NHS pays £543m a year to GPs for 3.6 MILLION 'ghost' patients who DON'T EXIST

Doctors in England get an average of £151 a year for each patient on their books whether or not they see them – and the number who are ghost patients have risen by almost 6,000 a week.

The phantom patients who have either died or moved away are now costing the NHS almost £550 million – enough to hire 10,000 new doctors, reports the Mail on Sunday.

Labour MP and chair of the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, told the paper: “We are talking about a tremendous amount of money – as much as £550 million – that is being wrongly allocated to GPs with ghost patients on their books.

“At a time of severe strain on NHS budgets, this could be diverted elsewhere on patients who need it.”

Among the ghost patients were a person who died 42 years ago and a patient called ‘M Mouse’, fabricated by a Scottish GP to fill up gaps in their schedule.

Areas with high levels of students and immigrant populations are among those most affected stats show.

In 2015, NHS bosses hired the consultancy firm Capita to carry out a crackdown on the non-existent patients registered with GPs’ surgeries.

But since then the numbers of ghost patients have risen by 20%.

Some of the ghost patients are people moving from one area of the country to another, while others may have recently died or become homeless.

In 2011, research found that a third of the ghost patients were dead, a fifth were university students signed up to multiple practises, and 10% were failed asylum seekers who remained registered after being deported.

An NHS England spokesperson said that the body “agreed that this situation is not good enough” and that more “could be done to speed up the process of removing ghost patients.”

A spokesperson said: "GP practices work hard to keep their registered patient lists as accurate as possible and NHS England is working with Capita and GP surgeries to transform this process, make it digital and any savings identified will be ploughed back into the NHS."

A Capita spokesman said: "This is a complex area involving GPs and other third parties.

"Alongside other improvements we are making, we are working closely NHS England who are consulting on proposed changes and guidance that will enable us to start targeted data quality checks on GP lists as part of our services.”

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