Missed GP appointments cost NHS millions during Covid pandemic - doctors urge patients to cancel

Exclusive: Millions of GP appointments wasted since last April, costing NHS almost £300 million.

Nearly 10 million GP appointments were wasted during the Covid pandemic because patients failed to attend them.

Analysis of official NHS data for England reveals more than 9.6 million appointments were not attended by patients from April 2020 to February 2021 – one in every 25 appointments offered.

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The estimated cost to the NHS of a GP appointment is £30.

Doctors urge patients to cancel unwanted appointments as millions go to waste during pandemic.
Doctors urge patients to cancel unwanted appointments as millions go to waste during pandemic.

That means appointments wasted by patients cost the health service an estimated £288 million during the pandemic, according to new analysis by NationalWorld.

Health chiefs are urging patients to notify their GP practice if they need to cancel an appointment so it can be used for someone else.

The missed appointments include face-to-face appointments with family GPs and other practice staff, as well as home visits, telephone calls and video conferencing appointments.

NHS Bury CCG had the highest percentage of missed appointments with 9% of all appointments missed.

NHS South East London CCG had the greatest number of appointments missed, with over 346,000 slots.

Nationwide, the missed appointments represented 4% of all GP slots – with an average of 29,000 appointments going to waste each day.

‘Frustrating’

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said it can be “frustrating” when patients don’t attend their GP appointments as the slot could be used for another patient.

“GPs and our teams have been working hard throughout the pandemic to ensure GP services are available, as well as playing a leading role in delivering the Covid vaccination programme,” he said.

“We would urge patients who no longer need their appointment to contact the surgery, at the earliest possible opportunity, so that valuable GP time can be used for the benefit of other patients.”

He added that while many cases are down to human error, missing an appointment could be a warning sign that something is wrong with a patient, requiring follow-up action from health workers.

Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s primary care medical director, added: “Everyone should continue to attend their medical appointments - including for screening and immunisations – as there are strict measures in place to keep patients safe.

“If you are unable to attend for any reason, our message is clear, please let us know so your appointment can be filled by another patient who may need it.”