Patients are more likely to skip primary care appointments at the start of the week, possibly because they feel unhappier, according to Scottish researchers.
They analysed national data for Scotland between 2008 and 2010, and also looked in detail at data from one practice in Glasgow.
Overall, they found 11% of people missed a Monday appointment, compared with 9.7% on a Friday. In real terms, this translated as 350,000 more missed appointments at the beginning of the working week than at the end, down from 967,912 on Monday to 617,633 on Friday.
The researchers, from the University of Glasgow, suggest the difference in “did not attends” could be attributed to how people feel on certain days.
Recent psychological studies have suggested people are at their lowest ebb on a Monday, when their outlook was found to be particularly negative. People became more positive as the week progressed, with Friday tending to elicit the happiest responses.
One of the study authors Dr Rob Jenkins told Nursing Times the positive outlook towards the end of the working week might allow people to feel more resilient against the stresses of a healthcare visit.
He said: “These findings raise the possibility that medical appointments may be harder to face on some weekdays than on others.”
He added: “This interpretation chimes with the many psychological reasons that patients gave for non-attendance, such as fear of bad news or unpleasant treatment.”
By loading appointments towards the end of the week, healthcare providers could help ease the pressure on health spending, the study authors said in the online journal PLOS ONE. The NHS currently loses £600m per year on missed appointments across the UK.
At present, most surgeries fill their appointment books for the beginning of the week. But by rearranging their allocation strategy, services providers could take control of the problem with minimal expenditure or minimal implementation of new procedures.
The study also revealed that younger people were more likely to miss appointments in general, with 24% of young males and 16% of young females skipping appointments on Mondays.