Charging for missed appointments won’t address intense GP pressures

Responding to pledges to introduce charges for missed NHS appointments, Dr Gary Howsam, Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs said: "GPs and our teams are working under intense workload and workforce pressures, delivering increasingly complex care to increasing numbers of patients while numbers of qualified, full time equivalent family doctors is falling despite the Government’s manifesto promise of 6,000 more GPs by 2024.

"When patients miss appointments, it's frustrating as these are appointments that could have been used for other patients. But charging for appointments is not the answer. It would fundamentally change the principle that the NHS is free at the point of need and would likely impact on our most vulnerable patients most - and it would add another layer of bureaucracy to a GP service already drowning in red tape.

"We also need to remember there are many reasons why this might happen. For some patients, missing appointments can be a sign that something more serious is going on, and that follow-up action is needed. For some, it will have been a case of human error. For others, particularly if the appointment was longstanding, it may have no longer been needed. 

"Practice teams work hard to ensure patients are aware of their appointments by sending reminders by text and email or encouraging them to manage their appointments online or through the NHS app.

"What is essential is that patients who are able to, and who no longer need their appointment, contact the surgery as soon as they can to let them know they won’t be attending, so that consultations can be offered to other patients. 

"Ultimately, the bigger issue affecting patients’ ability to access GP care and services is the workload and workforce pressures family doctors and our teams are working under. That’s why the College has launched our Fit for the Future campaign calling on government to address the spiralling workload and workforce pressures in general practice. We are calling for urgent action to develop and implement a new recruitment and retention strategy that allows us to achieve and go beyond the target of 6,000 more GPs. We also need to see funding for general practice return to 11% of the total health spend and a reduction in unnecessary bureaucracy to free up GP’s time to deliver patient care.”

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 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.