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It has been suggested that there are significant overlaps between removals due to deregistration and removals arising because patients live outside the practice area. If this is true, it would mean that the current estimates of deregistration would need to be revised upwards. All outside-area removals for the calendar years 2001 and 2002 were reviewed and characterised by age, sex and Jarman score of the enumeration district of the patients' residence and distance from the practice. The average outside-area removal rate was just over one removal per practice per year. Removal rates were highest between the ages of 18 and 44 years; there were no significant differences between the sexes. Rates of removal increased exponentially with distance, although even at marked distances from the practice there were about 10 patients remaining on the list for each one removed. Residents in deprived areas were more likely to be removed, although because areas most distal to the practice tend to be affluent, overall there was a predominance of affluent patients among those who are removed. In Northern Ireland rates of outside-area removal are only slightly higher than those of deregistration. It is evident that GPs are exercising some discretion as to which of the outside-area patients they retain on their list. This has the potential to cause some misunderstanding and resentment among patients, as has been reported previously.