Cost of missed doctors' appointments in west Essex revealed

PUBLISHED: 11:37 19 June 2019 | UPDATED: 19:44 25 June 2019

NHS data has revealed the number of GP appointments missed in West Essex, between January and April this year. Picture: CLINIC.

NHS data has revealed the number of GP appointments missed in West Essex, between January and April this year. Picture: CLINIC.

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More than 19,000 doctors' appointments were missed by patients in west Essex in the first four months of this year, according to NHS data.

This equates to more than £500,000 being wasted because patients in Uttlesford, Harlow and Epping Forest are booking appointments which they then do not attend.

Data from NHS Digital revealed that, from January to April this year, 454,675 appointments were made at GPs which are covered by the West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Of these appointments, 19,918 were not attended, equating to about one in 20.

Figures also showed that 408,185 were attended whilst 26,572 were classed as unknown.

Meanwhile, A Felsted doctor told the Broadcast that last year 1,759 appointments were missed at his surgery.

Dr Mike Tee, senior partner at John Tasker House Surgery said this equated to 293 hours wasted between January 2018 and December 2018, adding that if patients cancelled their appointments, more would become available.

He also said that his surgery writes to patients if they do not attend appointments more than three times in three months and if the patient continues with this behaviour, they could be removed from the practice.

A spokesman for West Essex CCG said: "While the vast majority of patients do attend their appointment, there is still a considerable number that don't. We are continually reminding patients to cancel an appointment if they no longer need one, so it can be reallocated to someone else."

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According to the NHS, each appointment costs an average of £30, putting the cost to the NHS at £597,540.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman 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."

Dr Nikki Kanani, acting director of primary care for 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.

"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."

Overall, in England, more than 4.6 million patients failed to attend appointments in the first four months of the year.

As well as this, nearly 20,000 appointments in west Essex took place more than 28 days after they were booked, between January and April.

A spokesman for West Essex CCG said: "Many patients choose to book routine appointments in advance, at a time that is convenient for them and as instructed by their GP.

"Between November 1, 2017, and October 31, 2018, 42.5 per cent of appointments in our local practices took place on the same day as the appointment was requested. This was just above the England average (40.19 per cent), and the majority of those appointments (86.3 per cent) were face to face - which again is above the national average (83.63 per cent)."

Data from NHS Digital reveals that 19,409 appointments took place more than 28 days after the initial booking, at GPs which fall which fall under the west Essex CCG. However, a total of 207,802 appointments did take place on the same day they were booked, within the same time frame. Some 51,454 appointments took place the day after the patient made the booking, 713,920 fell between the 2-28 days bracket, whilst the time frame for 186 is unknown or a data issue occurred.

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