Figures released by NHS Digital last week showed more than 1.2 million GP hours are being wasted nationally each year by people failing to attend appointments, which could be costing NHS England around £216million, enough to fund 2,325 GP salaries.
The latest figures from MTW, which include both new and follow-up appointments and covers the period from March 2017 to March 2018, show that more than 34,776 no shows occurred.
“1 in 10 people miss their hospital appointment because they forget about them. This delays the patient’s treatment and increases waiting times for everyone,” said a MTW spokesman.
While the trust does not keep a tally of the cost of DNAs (Did Not Attend), NHS England said each appointment costs an average of £30, which could mean the trust could be losing as much as £1,043,280, although the true price tag is hard to quantify.
While figures show how many appointments were not attended, they do not reveal whether the time is actually wasted, as some GPs deliberately overbook to account for DNA events.
Additionally, missed hospital appointments for consultants and surgeons – who are typically on higher salaries than the average GP – could mean the cost of DNAs to the trust are even higher.
Dr Richard Vautrey, the GP committee chairman for the BMA (British Medical Association) said: “Every appointment at a GP practice is precious, especially at a time when GP services are struggling to cope with rising patient demand, staff shortages and inadequate budgets.
Recently, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust introduced a free appointment reminder service for patients, who are prompted by SMS, telephone and letter, but Dr Vautrey says there is only so much medical practitioners can do to remind people.
“Practices will try many way to address this problem, but ultimately, patients need to play their part.”