Express & Star comment: Missed GP appointments are cause of concern
The number of missed GP appointments across the region is a significant cause for concern.
Hundreds of thousands of appointments were missed over the last year, and in many cases health bosses were not given the notice required to invite other patients.
In some parts of the region, as many as one in 14 appointments are missed each day, with the overall cost to the taxpayer in the West Midlands running into tens of millions of pounds.
This is nothing short of scandalous. Our NHS needs to look after every penny, yet by failing to turn up to appointments patients are placing a huge and unnecessary burden on health bosses. It is deeply frustrating for GPs, nurses and therapists, many of whom are already dealing with lengthy patient lists.
We understand that there are many reasons for non-attendance, such as underlying mental health issues or difficulties with transport.
But the fact is that this problem has been around for years – and the situation is getting worse.
It is so bad that in some quarters calls are being made to charge patients for appointments, a move that would fundamentally change one of the core principles of the NHS, namely that access is free at the point of need.
Those in favour of such a drastic – and widely unpopular – measure, should bear in mind that the cost of implementing the scheme would almost certainly outweigh any benefits, financial or otherwise.
In recent years GP practices have done their best to ensure patients are aware of their appointments by sending reminders by text and email or making use of new surgery apps.
But what is desperately needed is a mechanism enabling surgeries to target patients who regularly miss appointments. In this way, GPs could offer the right support and reduce the number of missed appointments.
Sadly, this is something that would come at a cost which at things stand, the NHS simply cannot afford to bear.
For patients, the message is simple. If you cannot attend an appointment, let your GP practice know as soon as possible.