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Patients steal magazines from GP practice waiting rooms

GPs are only able to offer old magazines in waiting rooms because patients steal the newer ones rather than because staff only provide dated publications, new research has found.

Recent magazines focusing on light entertainment and celebrity gossip were at exceptionally high risk of disappearing, while older, serious publications were often left untouched, a study in the BMJ found.

The researchers from the University of Auckland estimate that if the findings were extrapolated to the UK’s 8,000 practices then about £12.6m of magazines go missing every year.

In their study, a total of 87 magazines were stacked into three mixed piles and placed in the waiting room of a general practice in Auckland, New Zealand.

These ranged from high-minded ‘non-gossipy’ magazines such as Time, The Economist, Australian Women’s Weekly, National Geographic and BBC History, to ‘gossipy’ entertainment publications defined as having five or more photos of celebrities on the cover.

The researchers checked twice a week during the one-month study to see if the magazines were still in the waiting room.

At the end of the month, about half of the 87 magazines had disappeared. Some 59% of current magazines had gone compared to 27% of older ones. All but one of the 27 ‘gossipy magazines’ had disappeared, while nobody took any of the four copies of Time magazine or the 15 copies of The Economist.

Research team leader Professor Bruce Arroll said: ‘Quantification of this phenomena was urgently needed. Another first was the discovery that gossipy magazines were more likely to disappear than non-gossipy ones. Future research in waiting room science would include identifying who or what is responsible for the removal of magazines.’