More than one million general practice appointments are being wasted in the West Midlands each year because patients fail to turn up without prior warning.
There are around 22 million booked slots with GPs, nurses, therapists and other practice staff across the region every year and 5% of those are missed without enough notice to invite other patients – working out as around 1.1million wasted appointments.
Around 440,000 of these are with busy family doctors, which equals more than 73,000 GP hours wasted each year – the equivalent of 37 GPs working full time for a year.
Each appointment costs an average of £30, putting the total cost to the NHS at more than £33 million on top of the disruption for staff and fellow patients.
NHS England is working to improve access to GPs and other health professionals by recruiting thousands of new practice staff and appointments are now available in evenings and weekends in every general practice in the West Midlands.
Patients are also being encouraged to make use of GP online services, where they can book and cancel appointments, order repeat prescriptions, access some of their medical records and more. To register, simply take your ID to your practice and ask for the relevant forms.
However, it’s vital patients do their bit by letting the NHS know if they cannot attend an appointment.
Dr Francis Campbell, Deputy Medical Director at NHS England West Midlands, 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 extended access. The NHS long term plan will set out how we build on this progress, but patients can do their part by letting their practice know as soon as possible if they can’t make their slot – freeing up doctors, nurses and other professionals to see others. This is particularly important as we go in to winter.”
Evening and weekend access to GP services has been available across the country since December, more than three months ahead of schedule, and means there will be an estimated nine million extra appointments each year. They are available across seven days and through designated local NHS services, or in some cases a patient’s own GP practice.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:
“When patients miss appointments it can be a frustrating waste of resources for GPs and our teams, but also for other patients who are struggling to secure an appointment for themselves.
“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. To this end, practices are using electronic methods, such as SMS reminders, to encourage patients to keep their appointments, or cancel them in a timely manner.”