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No-shows adding to pressures facing West Norfolk GPs

Thousands of GP appointments are being missed across West Norfolk, heaping more pressure on the already stretched NHS, local health chiefs have warned.

The problem was highlighted after one Lynn practice revealed it had a record number of missed appointments on a single day this week, equating to around 10 per cent of its daily consultations.

And the latest data from the borough’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) showed that nearly 2,900 appointments were lost in April alone.

Dr Paul Williams (2001426)
Dr Paul Williams (2001426)

Now, bosses have urged the public to make sure they either attend scheduled appointments with their doctor or cancel them so others who need help can be seen.

CCG chairman Dr Paul Williams said yesterday: “By reducing this waste of appointments it will make it easier for patients to get appointments when they want one, which is a constant worry for a lot of our patients.

“We are asking people to use the health services wisely and appropriately.

“Not attending an appointment with their GP or other health professional is not an appropriate use of precious NHS resources.”

The issue was highlighted after officials at the St James Medical Practice in Lynn disclosed a spike in its lost appointments in a post on its Facebook page on Tuesday.

It said patients had not attended 51 appointments on Monday, a record number and around 10 per cent of the surgery’s daily total.

The post continued: “To give further perspective that is equal to three GP surgeries. Please cancel any appointments that you cannot attend.”

Although between 10 and 20 slots are usually lost on a typical day, operations manager Simon Temple said they were not sure what had caused the sudden upsurge.

He said: “There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme nor reason. Sometimes we can say the weather’s particularly bad.”

Mr Temple said the practice does send out text message reminders seven days and 24 hours ahead of an appointment and offers patients the chance to text them back if they no longer need their booked slot.

Appointments which are cancelled are often snapped up again within minutes of them becoming available.

He added: “I don’t know what else we can do.

“We know the NHS is financially stretched and to have clinicians without a patient to see, and with all the administration that goes on beyond the appointment, is a waste of our time and resources.”

Although surgeries are not allowed to charge people who miss appointments, there have been debates in recent months over whether such a system should be introduced, though views appear to be mixed.

But Dr Williams, a pracitising GP in Upwell, said pharmacists can be a viable alternative to seeing a GP in many cases.

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