Poll: Thousands of patients fail to turn up for GP appointments

The Stay Well This Winter campaign was launched yesterday

The Stay Well This Winter campaign was launched yesterday - Credit: EDP, Archant

MORE than 50,000 doctor appointments are being missed in north east Essex, it has emerged.

NHS bosses described it as totally unacceptable and have urged patients to be more responsible.

Head of Primary Care for the NHS in north east Essex Jennifer Speller said: “This is a shockingly high figure. Surgeries receive a lot of stick from patients who can’t get an appointment when they want one, but what these patients may not realise is that it is their fellow patients not cancelling appointments who are causing much of the problem.

“We need patients to be responsible. No-one thinks twice about phoning up their hairdresser if they can’t make an appointment but it would appear that some don’t think it is necessary to cancel their GP appointment if they are unable to make it.

“Even if patients find out at short notice they cannot make an appointment, it is still important they let their surgery know as that appointment could then be offered to somebody else who really needs it.”

According to NHS North Essex - the transitional organisation overseeing the change from the primary care trust to the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group - the total number of missed GP and nurse appointments for 2012 was 55,000.

Ms Speller added: “In the past, people have said they didn’t cancel their appointment because they couldn’t get through to the surgery as the phone lines were always busy.

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“However, a number of our 44 GP surgeries across north east Essex now have a 24-hour telephone facility so patients can leave a message cancelling their appointment and some surgeries also offer an online cancellation facility. I would urge people to think of their fellow patients and make every effort to cancel their appointment if they are unable to attend.”

Martin Durrant, practice manager at Vicarge Lane Surgery in Walton-on-the-Naze, said they have worked hard to reduce the number of unattended appointments fromr around 200 a month three years ago to 90 a month now.

“It’s a very good reduction but 90 are still too many and it remains an issue we need to continue tackling,” he said. “We have introduced sending a text reminder of appointments, though only 27% of our 10,500 patients have a mobile phone.”

He said the surgery had also introduced a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy whereby anyone who misses three appointments without notification is removed from their register. So far, two patients have been removed for being serial non-attendees.

“I believe the messages is getting across that this is something we take very seriously because it deprives patients who really need to see a doctor the opportunity to do so,” he added.

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