HC Deb 25 October 1994 vol 248 cc743-4
5. Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many disabled people have been struck off local general practitioner lists in each of the past four years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Bowis)

Only 1.2 per cent. of patients deregistering from general practitioner lists do so at the request of the GP. Those patients are not categorised in any way.

Mr. Sheerman

If the Minister does not know how many of those people are disabled, perhaps he should speak to Toby Harris, the director of the National Association of Community Health Councils, or even the health service ombudsman, both of whom are extremely worried about the number of patients who are being struck off by GPs. A Manchester report recently said that 1,700 patients, many of whom were disabled people, had been struck off lists by their doctors. Indeed, Mr. Harris said recently that one could be struck off for being too ill.

Mr. Bowis

I have looked carefully at Mr. Harris's press release and the other report to which the hon. Gentleman referred. Neither of them refers specifically to people with disabilities being struck off. That type of evidence has not been presented to us.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that under the patients charter, everyone has the right to be on a GP's list, and if anyone has any difficulty, family health services authorities have a role in ensuring that that is possible. I also remind the hon. Gentleman that the General Medical Council, supported by the General Medical Services Committee, has made it clear to doctors that it would be unacceptable if doctors were to remove people from lists because of the cost of their disability.

Mrs. Beckett

Surely the Minister is concerned when, according to a report from the National Association of Community Health Councils, about 30,000 patients are estimated as being struck off and, as he says himself, he has no knowledge of what percentage of those are people with severe long-term illness, disabilities and so on.

Does not the Minister also recognise that there is considerable concern that that is happening as a direct result of the Government's policies on GP fundholding; that in Essex, for example, an increase of about 27 per cent. in fundholding practices has been accompanied by an increase of 20 per cent. in patients being struck off? That is a worrying trend. If the Department of Health does not know what is happening and why, perhaps it is time that it did.

Mr. Bowis

There is no evidence to support what the hon. Lady says. Let me first welcome the hon. Lady to her responsibilities. [HON. MEMBERS: "Right hon."] I apologise, the right hon. Lady. We look forward to many years of enjoying her position across the Dispatch Boxes.

The right hon. Lady referred to the report of which the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) spoke, which is the one that Mr. Harris produced. That report does not produce that evidence.

I am aware, however, that there are some worries about the general issue of registration and deregistration. We are examining that as part of our regular review of registration procedures to discover, first, whether any improvements can be made and, secondly, whether there are any grounds for concern.