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Independents' Day

Patients miss one in 20 GP appointments at a cost of £200m, warns NHS England

One in 20 GP surgery appointments are being wasted because patients do not turn up and fail to warn surgeries they are not coming, costing the NHS over £200m annually.

The latest NHS Digital GP appointments data suggests that 15.4m GP appointments are going to waste every year because patients who don’t turn up are not giving staff sufficient notice to make the appointments available to other patients.

Of the wasted appointments, just under half – 7.2m - were scheduled with GPs themselves. This adds up to more than 1.2m GP hours wasted each year – the equivalent of over 600 GPs working full time for a year.

NHS England urged people who could not attend to cancel appointments. With each slot costing the NHS an average of £30, the cost of the missed GP appointments comes to about £216m a year.

NHS England said this could pay for either:

  • the annual salary of 2,325 full time GPs;
  • 224,640 cataract operations;
  • 58,320 hip replacement operations;
  • 216,000 drug treatment courses for Alzheimer’s; or
  • the annual salary of 8,424 full time community nurses.

NHS England acting director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said: ‘Our message is clear - if you cannot make it to your appointment or no longer need a consultation, please let your GP practice know in advance so the appointment can be filled by another patient.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the situation was a ‘frustrating waste of resources’ not just for GPs and their teams but for patients struggling to get an appointment.

She said: ‘There may be many reasons why a patient might miss an appointment, and in some cases it can be an indication that something serious is going on for that individual - but we would urge patients to let us know if they can’t attend as soon as possible, so that we can offer that time to someone else who really needs it.

‘To this end, practices are using electronic methods, such as SMS reminders, to encourage patients to keep their appointments, or cancel them in a 0timely manner.’

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It is really important for patients to do all they can to make the most of appointments provided to them and to inform their local practice if they cannot attend a previously booked consultation.

'Practices will try many ways to address this problem, but ultimately patients do need to play their part. With the NHS finances under historic strain, it's vital that don't waste the resources we currently have.’

Readers' comments (20)

  • Vinci Ho

    A couple of interesting points :
    Firstly, it seems that the narrative of NHSE and NHSD is spinning towards financial penalty on these patients??
    Secondly, some arithmetic; £216 million divided by 2325 which gives a reference annual salary of a full time GP £92,903.

    Happy New Year , folks.

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  • I think the whole idea of 10 minutes appointments is misleading

    Most of the GP’s work easily 30 minutes extra (unpaid)for every session. If we scale this up nationally it will be worth over several hundred million .

    So first thing that needs doing is increasing consultation time for 15 minutes. After this they can then ensure all appointments are filled 100%

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  • A quiet news day? The figure is much higher than 1 in 20, and the same applies for secondary care.

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  • And who ever sits there there doing nothing for 10 minutes?
    A missed appointment is irritating but more often that not a godsend to allow you time to TRY and catch up with the 15 to 20 minutes you have spent with all your other patients.

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  • Who cares? If anybody gave a hoot,they would have introduced a penalty system like the dental system works. No sense moaning about it, politicians just have to make up their minds on what they wish to achieve.

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  • What nonsense. Practices are financed on a per capita basis so get the same whatever the demand is. When patients DNA we just get on with the next one or job in hand, many sessions in winter overrun but this is never counted. NHSE are softening us up for more cuts with a DNA adjustment made like they do for ghost patients.

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  • Agree fully with yellow..... how do they calculate this “ cost”?
    We see an average of “5-8 extras” in most clinics- so by the same logic we are owed 100 million extra to cover this?

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  • Missed appointments give an opportunity to check results, letters, emails etc. If our attendance rate increased, we'd need to shorten our surgeries to compensate!

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  • Agree with Dylan and a few others.

    NHSE have already 'banked' the money as GPs are already using that time to manage their workload. If they fill it with patients GPs will just be staying even later in the evening - or in fact just seeing fewer patients in a day.

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  • how they calculate cost?. we don't get paid if patient does not turn me it is more irritating when they come late. they don't turn up is a relief provided they don't make another appointment.
    I always record DNA no reason and tell them off.

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