STRUCTURE: Concern has been raised about patients in Kent being removed from the register of their GP as part of an NHS England clean-up of lists.

NHS England regularly reviews GP registers to ensure there are no duplications or patients listed who no longer use the practice.

This includes writing to patients to ask if they still wish to be kept on their GP’s register. If they do not respond they are removed.

West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body noted that if a patient did not respond within the deadline they would be removed from the GP register and there could be a “significant cost impact” if this forced them to visit an accident and emergency department instead.

However, Ian Ayres, chief accountable officer for the CCG, told HSJ that after writing to NHS England to clarify the procedure he was satisfied it was a “timely” and “thorough” process.

The chairman of the National Association of Primary Care, Charles Alessi, said that writing to patients could disadvantage ethnic minorities who might not have English as their first language. He said: “It’s very well-known that the people who usually get caught up in this drag net are people who often are from ethnic minorities and in many respects are disadvantaged.”

David Geddes, NHS England’s head of primary care, said: “Ongoing ‘list cleansing’ is undertaken to make sure any duplicate registrations and ‘ghost patients’ are kept to a minimum. This means that funding goes to where it is intended – real patients not ghost patients who do not exist – and ensures fairness in funding allocations.”