Missed appointments frustrating but also potential red flag warnings, says College

Publication date: 04 December 2017

In response to a study on missed GP appointments published in The Lancet Public Health, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "One of the College's main objections to charging patients when they miss appointments has always been that this could disproportionally impact on the most vulnerable in society, and this new research backs this up.

"We understand why GPs and our teams get frustrated when patients don't turn up to their appointments. It's wasteful for everyone, but in some cases this can be a warning sign that something significant is wrong with the patient and follow-up action is needed – and it may not always be a physical problem but sometimes a psychological or social issue.

"It is interesting, but perhaps not surprising, that the research found that frequently missing appointments correlates with a delay in them getting an appointment.

"Whilst practices will always try to offer appointments that are timely and convenient for patients, the current resource and workforce pressures we are facing, with GPs conducting more consultations than ever before to meet increasing demand, is making this more and more difficult.

"GP practices across the country are already implementing some successful schemes to reduce missed appointments, from text messaging reminders to better patient education and awareness posters detailing the unintended consequences of a patient not attending.

"But ultimately, we need NHS England's GP Forward View – promising £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs – to be delivered in full and as a matter of urgency, and we need equivalent promises made and delivered in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so that we can deliver the care our patients need, whatever their circumstances, and wherever in the country they live."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633/7410
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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