Official Boston population: 64,600 Number of GP patients in borough: 79,171 Why is there a such a big gap between the two?

Parkside Medical Centre
Parkside Medical Centre

There are about 14,500 more people registered to GP surgeries in Boston borough than the total population figure given in the census.

NHS statistics show that there are 79,171 registered patients in the Boston borough.

This figure is 14,571 people higher than the 2011 census population figure of 64,600 (which itself was 8,600 higher than the population in the previous census in 2001).

The news appears to support the case made by politicians that the borough’s total population is higher than officially recognised, but the GP data does not take into account people who have left the area and not taken themselves off the books of their former doctor or those who travel in from outside the borough for medical appointments.

Andy Fisher, Boston Borough Council’s head of health and census liaison manager, confirmed that while the figures support the argument for extra funding to provide services for the population they are not an ‘entirely accurate’ measure.

He said: “While GP registrations do support the council’s case for increased funding from central government for a population larger than that indicated by the census they do tend to over-estimate, but by how much we don’t know.

“Unfortunately there is no clear data so official Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics remain the most viable we have.”

The three practices with the most patients are Parkside Medical Centre, on Tawney Street (13,346), Liquorpond Surgery, on Liquorpond Street (11,674), and Greyfriars Surgery, on South Square (11,637).

Parkside manager David Harding said there was nothing unusual about the rise and that increases were random.

He said the rise in population did affect services at the practice but pointed to their recent expansion and said they were able to cope with the increase.

In fact, he said: “We’ve had a huge reduction in complaints and a lot more compliments recently.”

He said the practice does have a number of Eastern European patients but says that is not the sole reason for the rise.

He said they hadn’t had an influx of patients since restrictions were lifted on the movement of Romanian people in the EU despite predictions of large-scale arrivals.

He also confirmed new patients did mean more money for the surgery to pay for extra staff and resources to deal with the extra numbers – although he admitted it could be a double-edged sword if a new patient needed regular use of GP services.

He said practices kept a close eye on their patient numbers for increases in case they needed to employ more staff.

Simon Hopkinson, for the Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group, said they felt that the figures were ‘disparate’ but stressed the census is now out of date.

However, given that the census showed an 8,600 rise in the population in 10 years it appears unlikely that the 14,571 gap can be completely explained this way.

Spokesmen for NHS England were unable to provide a definitive interpretation of the figures.

All GP practices in Boston borough are accepting new patients according to the NHS Choices website.