Patients who do not visit their GP for five years face being axed from their doctor’s surgery under plans being rolled out across England.
Under the initiative, those who have not seen their GP for five years will be sent two letters asking them to respond. If they cannot be contacted to say they still wish to be registered with their doctor, they will be removed from the practice list.
GPs are paid for every patient on their list – on average, they receive funding of about £136 per registered patient.
NHS England has employed private company Capita to lead the drive – known as “list cleansing” – to cut costs to the NHS and ensure accuracy over which patients use which services.
The idea is to find out whether patients no longer require services or have moved house, left the country or died.
Dr Robert Morley, from the British Medical Association (BMA), said: ‘Patients have a right to be registered unless they move or register elsewhere, even if they don’t need to or choose not to access services.
“NHS England should abandon this exercise which will have the inevitable consequences of disruption for patients and a reduction of core funding disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable practices.”
An NHS England spokeswoman said: “The National Audit Office and House of Commons Public Accounts Committee have all drawn attention to the need to ensure accurate patient lists, and for proper stewardship of public funds. We doubt that contractual change would be needed but, should it be, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.”
It said any patient who has their registration cancelled would need to be re-registered on contacting their surgery.
But Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, said: “If the NHS insists on proceeding with this plan, despite our previous warnings, then it needs to do so with extreme caution.”