Penalised for being well or an effective way to save the NHS money?
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I was a bit concerned to read about NHS England's plans to de-register people from their GP's practice if they have not attended for 5 years.
On the surface, it might well be an effective way to try to tighten up spending in the NHS. GPs receive a set payment from the NHS of around £135 for every patient registered with their practice, with further payment as and when treatment is provided. The overall aim of the initiative is to try and stop GPs from receiving payment for patients who have died or moved to another area. It is estimated that up to 5% of GP practice lists could be inaccurate.
The plan seems to be that letters will be sent, by a private contractor, to all patients who have not contacted their surgeries for 5 years. If they do not respond, a second warning letter will follow. If no response is received after that then the patient will be deregistered. Concern has been raised by GPs who fear that patients could be 'punished for being well' if, for whatever reason, they do not respond to the letters. It is worrying that perhaps some of the most vulnerable members of our communities might be put at risk in this way.
Some would say that it is a fundamental right here in the UK to be registered with a GP, whether or not they are seen on a regular basis. I think if this plan is rolled out nationally there may be wider issues to consider; not least the impact on A&E departments when those patients who find themselves without a GP have nowhere else to go!
Perhaps more consideration should be given to rationalising the way GPs are paid for the care they provide rather than risk the potential impact of removing access to appropriate healthcare to people as and when they need it?
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