PATIENTS failed to show up for more than 150,000 GP appointments in Oxfordshire last year and cost the NHS millions of pounds in the process, new figures reveal.

NHS Digital data shows in 2019 an estimated 166,982 appointments were missed without enough notice to invite other patients in the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area – an average of 457 per day.

This includes appointments with nurses, therapists and other practice staff, as well as doctors.

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A missed GP appointment costs around £30, according to NHS England, meaning the Oxfordshire CCG could have lost out on approximately £5 million through patient no-shows last year.

This cost, on top of the disruption for staff and other patients, would pay for the average annual salary of 86 full-time GPs or 5,009 drug treatment courses for Alzheimer’s.

While one in every 23 appointments booked at CCG-monitored GP practices in Oxfordshire were missed last year, a further four per cent were listed as having an unknown outcome – where there was no log of whether the patient did or did not attend.

Witney Gazette:

Jacquie Pearce-Gervis

Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, head of Oxfordshire Patient Voice, said the number of missed appointments was ‘far too high’, saying: “Of course some of the misses may be for very genuine reasons, but these days most practices remind patients at least twice before their due appointments.”

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She added, however, long waits to get through to the GP switchboard to either say the person cannot make the appointment or to ask for a telephone consultation could be part of the problem and that it may be ‘very tempting’ sometimes to give up.

Ms Pearce-Gervis continued: “We would urge patients to check their diaries regularly and telephone the GP surgery if they cannot attend which will leave space for those waiting for an appointment.”

Witney Gazette:

Julie Dandridge

Julie Dandridge, head of primary care at Oxfordshire CCG said it was 'a real concern' that some patients were not turning up for a booked GP appointment in Oxfordshire.

She added: "Patients should always inform their GP practice without delay if they can’t attend as other patients can always use the available slot, even at short notice.

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"There is high demand for GP services, especially over winter, and we’re continually looking at ways to improve access to these services. Many GP practices remind patients about their appointment through text messaging, making it easy for them to cancel.”

More than 13,300 patients in Oxfordshire were forced to wait longer than four weeks for a GP appointment in December, according to the latest NHS figures available.

This was only slightly higher than the number who cancelled too late for another patient to take their spot, which was 13,282.

There were 295,861 appointments made in December across the county.