GP practices present “considerable scope for manipulation and sharp practice,” according to a leaked NHS England document.
The report, obtained by the Daily Mail, accuses a small number of practices of fraudulent practices worth millions of pounds annually. GP leaders said the report contained “insinuations.”
It says that, because they are independent contractors, practices are “high trust environments that present considerable scope for manipulation and sharp practice.”
The report sets out many of the areas of investigation by the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, alleging that fraud in GP practices costs £88 million a year. In contrast dentists are accused of £126 million worth of fraud.
The biggest problem is alleged to be discrepancies in patient numbers. There are 3.6 million more people on practice registers than those living in England. GP leaders say much of this is explained by delays in collection information about deaths and movements of patients.
The paper says that some practices are suspected of claiming payments for services that have not been provided, such as stop smoking or contraceptive services. There are also allegations of duplicate timesheets for agency staff and the use of self-prescription.
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “GPs and their teams will be shocked and hurt to hear that insinuations they are complicit in somehow defrauding our National Health Service are still being propagated.
“Records can never be perfect as our patients’ circumstances change all the time. It is certainly not a case of surgeries deliberately and systematically profiting by keeping patients on their lists when they shouldn’t be there.