15M PATIENTS FAIL TO TURN UP FOR THEIR GP
Doctors’ fury as missed appointments cost NHS £216m a year
PATIENTS failed to attend more than 15 million GP appointments last year, causing chaos in clogged surgeries, shocking figures reveal.
Health chiefs blasted the no-shows as a “frustrating waste of resources” after it emerged they cost the cash-strapped NHS £216million, or nearly £600,000 a day.
It comes after the Daily Express laid bare the crisis in primary care with some patients waiting up to three weeks to see a doctor because there are too few GPs.
Six thousand more are urgently needed to plug the black hole. In some parts of the country there are just six GPs looking after 14,000 patients, while others are seeing more than 60 a day, leaving them burned out, stressed
and threatening to quit. Last night, England’s top doctor begged patients to cancel appointments if they could not make them, rather than just failing to show up.
Family GP Dr Sarah Jarvis said she had “begun to think the unthinkable”, suggesting so-called DNAs – “Did Not Attends” – should be charged £5 as a deterrent.
She said: “I have been a GP for 27 years and I have started saying this for the very first time.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs the Royal College of GPs, said: “There may be many reasons why a patient might miss an appointment.
“But we would urge patients to let us know if they can’t attend as soon as possible, so that we can offer that time to someone else who really needs it.”
NHS England says there are around 307 million sessions scheddrug uled with GPs, nurses, therapists and other practice staff each year, but one in 20 is missed without enough notice to see other patients – meaning a total of 15.4 million wasted slots.
Of these, around 7.2 million are with busy family doctors, which adds up to more than 1.2 million GP hours wasted each year – equal to more than 600 full-time GPs.
Each appointment costs around £30, putting the total NHS financial burden at more than £216million, in addition to widespread disruption for surgeries.
That could pay the salaries of 2,325 fulltime GPs, 224,640 cataract operations, 58,320 hip replacements, 216,000 treatment courses for Alzheimer’s or 8,424 community nurses. An average GP will realistically care for 2,000 patients, each of whom visits the surgery about five times a year – meaning they could plough through 10,000 appointments. Sandeep Kapur, an NHS GP in Penge, south-east London, said: “These figures are an underestimate. It’s not just that patients don’t turn up, doctors will read up on their notes and invariably allow 10 minutes’s leeway, so it has a huge affect on a morning surgery.”
Recruitment figures published last year showed 15.3 per cent of GP positions were unfilled, up from just 2.1 per cent in 2011.
But frustratingly long waits to see a doctor have seen people turn to a new generation of health apps providing round-the-clock medical attention from private GPs.
NHS England recruited thousands of new practice staff and providing after-hours and weekend appointments.
Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s acting director of primary care, said: “We know timely access to general practice appointments are a priority for the public.”
NHS England said evening and weekend access to GP services would create an estimated nine million extra appointments a year.