The amount of money wasted by people failing to show up for general practice appointments each year could fund the annual salary of more than 8,000 community nurses, health leaders have revealed.
NHS England claims out of 307 million sessions scheduled with doctors, nurses and other practice staff every year, 15.4 million – 5% - are missed without enough notice to invite other patients.
“This is particularly important as we go in to winter”
Each appointment costs an average of £30, putting the total cost to the NHS of these unused appointments at more than £216m on top of the disruption for staff and fellow patients. That money could pay for yearly wage of 8,424 full-time community nurses.
NHS England is attempting to improve access to primary care by recruiting thousands of extra practice staff and has introduced more evening and weekend appointments. It is urging patients to do their bit by letting their practice know in advance if they cannot make their time slot.
Dr Nikki Kanani, acting director of primary care at NHS England, said: “We know that timely access to general practice appointments are a priority for the public which is why we are growing the workforce and offering evening and weekend appointments.
“The NHS long-term plan will set out how we will build on this progress but patients can do their part by letting the NHS know if they can’t make their slot – freeing up doctors, nurses and other professionals to see those who do need care and attention,” she added.
Dr Kanani said: “This is particularly important as we go in to winter. Our message is clear: if you cannot make it to your appointment or no longer need a consultation, please let your GP practice know in advance so the appointment can be filled by another patient.”
“We would urge patients to let us know if they can’t attend as soon as possible”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said missed appointments were a “frustrating waste of resource” for general practice teams.
She added: “There may be many reasons why a patient might miss an appointment, and in some cases it can be an indication that something serious is going on for that individual – 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.”