Have you ever missed a GP appointment without calling to cancel? Or do you struggle to get a slot in the first place? It turns out, these two issues are directly related, as shown by recent NHS figures.
If you’re suffering from a lingering illness or new symptoms, it could be time to book a GP appointment. For lots of us, this means a long wait on the phone or in the waiting room. We all know the struggle of trying to get a slot, especially in the busy Winter months. So, we might not be too happy to hear that millions of appointments are being wasted every year. But this is exactly what’s happening in NHS surgeries.
Recent NHS figures show that over 15 million appointments are wasted annually. (1) To put this into context, that’s around 23% of the UK population. So, more than 1 in 5 people get a slot and just don’t turn up. Is this giving you a guilty conscience? Maybe you know someone who’s a serial surgery ghoster. If so, keep reading. It’s worse than you think…
The cost of missed GP appointments
The cost to the general public is that we continue to struggle to see a doctor. That dreaded task of phoning the surgery before 10am? That gets a little harder. Lots of people feel nervous about seeing the doctor, even when they really need to. For these people, it’s important that they don’t have any obstacles in their way. Otherwise, it’s too easy to give up and suffer the consequences. The health risks of not being able to see a doctor when you need to are unimaginable.
The cost to the NHS? That’s a huge concern. Each missed GP appointment costs the NHS an average of £30 per slot. That’s a whopping £216 million in total. NHS England have suggested how this money could be better spent on healthcare. It would cover the annual salary of over 2,000 GPs, as just one example.
In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about doctors being stretched beyond capacity. This is in part due to a shortage of GPs. Wasted appointments take up over a million GP hours. That’s the same as 600 GPs working full-time for a year.
All because we don’t give the surgery a call to cancel? Really?
Have the courtesy to RSVP
Sometimes we can’t make our appointments. That’s understandable. We lead busy lives and things come up. If this happens to you, just pick up the phone and let the surgery know. Being courteous about your cancellation means someone else could have the slot instead. If not, that person might not get an appointment when they really need it.
Should we pick up the NHS cost?
All those wasted appointments add up. The government recently announced a new batch of NHS spending to try and combat health service issues. Maybe we should take some responsibility, too. What if you had to pay the £30 fee for every appointment you missed? Would you think twice about notifying your surgery?
- NHS England (2019). Missed GP appointments costing NHS millions. https://www.england.nhs.uk/2019/01/missed-gp-appointments-costing-nhs-millions/ Accessed: 07/01/19