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Extending GP access will reduce missed appointments, says health minister

Extending GP hours is the Government’s solution to reducing the 12 million GP appointments missed each year, according to health minister Dr Dan Poulter.

Dr Poulter said the solution to preventing missed appointments was to ensure they were ‘as convenient as possible’ for patients, in response to a written question from Conservative MP for Hove, Mike Weatherley.

The health minister said that NHS England estimated 12 million GP appointments are wasted each year by patients failing to attend, at a cost of £162 million to the taxpayer.

Dr Poulter said that the one off £50million Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund had been created to reduce this burden, by extending hours and trialling other initiatives including Skype and email consultations.

Dr Poulter said: ‘In order to reduce the number of missed GP appointments, the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund is supporting pilots to ensure appointments are as convenient as possible for the patient.

‘The pilots will offer millions more patients evening and weekend GP appointments, as well as introducing initiatives, such as email and Skype consultations.’

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter recently hit out at politicians and NHS managers for championing ‘politically motivated’ GP access targets, and said more needed to be done to address the pressures facing general practice.