Half a million missed GP appointments cost NHS £18m
Patients failed to show up for more than half a million GP appointments in the Black Country and Staffordshire last year and cost the NHS millions of pounds in the process, new figures show.
An estimated 595,440 appointments were missed without enough notice to invite other patients - an average of 1,631 per day.
The Royal College of GPs says missed appointments are “frustrating” for doctors but warned that non-attendance could be for many reasons, including underlying mental health issues.
Most appointments were missed in the Sandwell and West Birmingham area where 234,637 were lost. There were 106,967 in Walsall, 95,265 in Wolverhampton, 91,099 in Dudley, 36,892 in Stafford and 30,580 in Cannock Chase.
It meant in the Black Country one in every 14 appointments were missed last year. This includes appointments with nurses, therapists and other practice staff, as well as doctors.
A missed GP appointment costs around £30, according to NHS England, meaning health bodies in the region could have lost out on nearly £18 million through patient no-shows last year.
A survey by Pulse magazine last year found that four in 10 GPs would be in favour of charging patients for appointments.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Missed appointments are very frustrating, especially when GPs could be seeing other patients – but, for some patients, there may be more complex reasons for non-attendance and it could indicate something more serious, such as underlying mental health issues.
“Charging for appointments – missed or otherwise – would fundamentally change one of the founding principles of the NHS, that access is free at the point of need. It is also unlikely that the benefits of such an approach would outweigh the costs of implementing it.
“GP practices are working hard to ensure that patients are aware of their appointments by sending reminders by text and email or encouraging them to make appointments through the surgery app. However, it would be helpful if practices had more time and resource to follow up patients they might have particular concerns about."
More than 15 million people across England failed to turn up to booked GP appointments last year.
An NHS England spokesperson said: “As part of the NHS Long Term Plan we are investing record amounts of money in primary care services and treating more patients, but GPs are seeing an increase in demand – which is why the 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.”