A leading GP practice dumped elderly and disabled care home patients to save money, an NHS investigation has ruled.

GP practices were furious when Churchill Medical Practice deregistered 48 patients from Kingston Care Home last July and expected them to take vulnerable patients on at short notice.

A subsequent investigation by NHS South West London, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, has revealed the practice said it was forced to drop the patients for safety reasons.

It said reductions to staffing levels following funding cuts in the contract review of March 2011, forced them to take the action.

But the NHS investigation rejected the explanation and said it was purely financially driven.

NHS South West London has refused to say publicly whether Churchill was right or wrong and Charles Alessi, the practice’s senior partner, declined to comment.

The transition director, whose name was redacted in the documents, said: “I could therefore draw no conclusion other than that you had subsequently selected 48 vulnerable people for removal by virtue from your list of patients because of their demands on your practice’s services and this by virtue of their age, medical condition or level of disability.”

She said by rights Churchill should take them back but said it would cause more disruption to vulnerable patients.

The GMC Fitness to practice directorate contacted NHS SW London after seeing a newspaper report about the deregistration but NHS SW London told them to hold off until the internal review was complete. The GMC could not say this week whether further action was being taken.

A statement from Churchill said it was disappointed with the conclusion and said the decision took place during “a protracted and polarised” contractual dispute.

It said: “The decisions were all taken in good faith after the practice made attempts to communicate and get assent to the actions proposed.”

Dr Julius Parker, who made the complaint on behalf of the St Albans, Fairhill, Richmond, Brackendale and Canbury practices wrote: “I completely share your view patient care must not become a pawn in these processes.

“Nonetheless, I am uncertain if the current outcome will seem satisfactory to those colleagues who first raised this issue with me.”