Missed appointments at GPs cost £185m

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Missed doctors' appointments are costing the National Health Service more than £185m a year, because more than 10 million GP consultation slots are wasted every year when patients fail to turn up.

Missed doctors' appointments are costing the National Health Service more than £185m a year, because more than 10 million GP consultation slots are wasted every year when patients fail to turn up.

The figures come from a survey by the Doctor-Patient Partnership (DPP), an arm of the British Medical Association, of more than 1,000 GP practices in Britain.

On average, 18 appointments per GP and eight with a practice nurse are missed every week - amounting to nearly 10.5 million in Britain as a whole.

The average eight-minute consultation costs £18 - meaning missed appointments are costing the health service about £187m a year.

Dr Simon Fradd, chairman of the DPP said: "The message is simple - keep the appointment or cancel it. Taking responsibility in this way will help ease the strain on an overburdened system. It is vital that people are more aware of the impact this has on valuable surgery time."

The Government's national plan for the NHS, published last month, pledged that by 2004 all patients should be able to see a GP within 48 hours.

Dr Fradd said that reducing the rate of missed appointments would help achieve the tough target.

Rosey Foster, deputy chief executive of the Institute of Healthcare Management said: "This figure is unacceptable.

"There doesn't seem, to be one easy answer but clearly reducing missed appointments and ensuring that patients are seen within a reasonable time requires patients and practice staff to work together."

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