Doc­tors’ fury as missed ap­point­ments cost NHS £216m a year

Daily Express - - Front Page - By Giles Sheldrick Chief Re­porter

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.

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