500,000 missed GP appointments scandal
By Danielle NuttallMORE than 500,000 patients in the eastern region miss GP appointments every year, new figures have revealed.A survey conducted by health charity Developing Patient Partnerships found there were 524,413 missed GP appointments in the region every year.
By Danielle Nuttall
MORE than 500,000 patients in the eastern region miss GP appointments every year, new figures have revealed.
A survey conducted by health charity Developing Patient Partnerships found there were 524,413 missed GP appointments in the region every year.
A further 268,954 people did not keep appointments booked with a practice nurse, the survey found.
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More than half of the surgeries in the eastern area that took part in the research admitted missed appointments were a problem in their practice, while almost 70% said they would support a system of fining patients for not turning up.
The survey found the most common excuse for missing an appointment was that patients forgot (67%), with the next most frequent reason given being they felt better and chose not to attend (27%).
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Kathryn Wilds, manager of the Victoria Surgery in Bury St Edmunds, said seven GP appointments, one emergency and six nurse appointments were missed at the practice on August 9.
With each doctor appointment 10 minutes long and nurse appointment 15 minutes in length, the total amount of time wasted was two hours and 50 minutes.
"We don't know what the answer is except for charging. All it takes is a phone call. If people can phone to book an appointment, then they can phone to cancel one," said Ms Wilds.
The surgery now operates a system whereby an alert appears on the computer screen if a patient misses an appointment.
"Normally if they have three Do Not Arrives in a row, we will write to them and say if they continue to do this, they will be removed from our list," said Ms Wilds.
Peter Larner, manager of the Hadleigh Boxford Group Practice, said the surgery lost between 5% and 10% of its appointments made with a practice nurse, which affected costs and meant other patients had to wait longer for appointments.
But he added the surgery had seen a big reduction in the number of missed GP appointments since introducing an open access system, which enabled patients to book and receive an appointment on the same day.
"We get very few not turning up because they only made them a couple of hours before, but problems come when patients make appointments a long time in advance and they are more likely to forget and then don't tell us," said Mr Larner.
"Apart from the staff costs, it obviously means other patients have to wait longer for appointments."
Dr Gareth Richards, president of the Suffolk division of the British Medical Association, said there was no excuse for patients not telling a surgery an appointment could not be attended.
"There is the irritation that people who are needing urgent attention have to call for out-of-hours surgery appointments because they cannot get in," he added.
"There is the unfairness of other people who do play by the rules. Some patients phone up and cannot get an appointment that day and they have to suffer a bit longer."
Dr John Cormack, honorary secretary of the Essex branch of the British Medical Association, added: "There have been some surveys where GPs have said if patients paid for their appointments, they would appreciate it, and 'no shows' would be less common.
"However, there are a lot of people who still hold to the mantra of free at the point of contact.
"Another idea is to do what dentists do. They charge the full cost of the appointment. I think there's something in that."