GP surgeries in Gloucestershire have tens of thousands of patients on their registers who may be dead or have left the area, according to NHS figures.

So-called ghost patients are a serious problem for the NHS, as the money allocated to surgeries is linked to the number of patients on their books.

The most recent estimate for the population of Gloucestershire CCG, which is in charge of commissioning healthcare services in the area, is 623,129 - but there were 648,850 patients registered with GP surgeries in the area last month.

This means up to 25,720 of these could be ghost patients, or 4% of all those registered.

The Office for National Statistics last updated its population estimates in mid 2016, so it is possible that population growth may account for some ghost patients. But analysis of ONS figures shows that, between 2011 and 2016, the population grew by 0.8% on average each year, so it is unlikely this accounts for all extra patients.

GP surgeries receive funding based on the number of people they have registered, which is then weighted to take into account key patient demographics like gender, age and disability.

Gloucestershire CCG was allocated £101.04 million from the NHS based on the number of registered patients in the 2016-2017 financial year. NHS figures show this was an average amount per patient of £158.9.

The funding formula is revised annually but based on these figures, the CCG would receive around £103.1 million for patients on the register in the coming financial year. But if the population figure was used instead of the patient register it would be £99.02 million.

This means as much as £4.1 million would be allocated to ghost patients.

The health service blames poor record keeping.