There were nearly four million general practice (GP) appointments offered across the East of England in October 2023, according to latest figures published by NHS England. This is an increase of more than a quarter of a million more appointments made available in comparison with the same time last year. Furthermore, during the same period, more than a third (approximately 1.5 million) of these appointments took place on the same day they were booked.
These figures also reveal that there were nearly 75,000 missed appointments in the same month where patients who booked an appointment but did not attend, or ‘DNAs’. This represents an increase of more than 8,000 more wasted appointments than was the case in October 2022.
A recent study estimated that, in 2021/22, the average nine-minute GP face-to-face consultation costs £42. In financial terms, this means in October alone this year, patient no-shows cost the region’s NHS well over £7 million.
Many of us will have heard stories of people struggling to get a GP appointment and going straight to an A&E instead, where they don’t really need to be. But this increase in appointments shows that’s not a true picture for our region, with many patients getting seen on the same day they call.
We know timely access to GP appointments is incredibly important and we’re doing all we can to see more patients. However, we’re asking patients to please play their part too – firstly, by calling 111 for advice when ill, and then calling for a GP appointment, if one is required, rather than going straight to A&E. Finally, if you get an appointment, but no longer need it, please let your surgery know so that appointment can be freed up for others who are ill.Adam Cayley, Chief Operating Officer for the NHS in the east of England
The NHS has introduced a number of initiatives to help reduce DNAs, such as using simple text message reminders to confirm a patient’s upcoming appointment and the launch of the NHS App, which allows patients to see their consultation notes from their GP appointments, view test results and book future appointments.
As winter pressures build, patients should also consider a wide range of other NHS services as an alternative to visiting a GP surgery or emergency department. You can use NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk, via the NHS App or call 111, if you have an urgent medical problem and you are not sure what to do. Pharmacists can also give treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses and can tell you if you still need to see a doctor. If you are in a life-threatening emergency, you should call 999 or go to A&E.
More than 31,000 additional staff have been recruited into healthcare roles at general practices across the country since 2019 – meaning an expanded team of health professionals are now available to help patients get the right care when they need it, in addition to seeing their GP or practice nurse. The NHS has been raising awareness of the support available with community health teams, including pharmacists, mental health practitioners, paramedics, physios, and social prescribing link workers now available in every part of the country.