East Sussex patients missed 117,000 GP appointments during pandemic – costing NHS more than £3.5m

Tens of thousands of GP appointments were wasted during the Covid pandemic in East Sussex because patients failed to attend them.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 2:37 pm
Health news. Photo: Shutterstock

Analysis of official NHS data reveals 117,000 appointments were not attended by patients across the NHS East Sussex CCG area from April 2020 to February 2021.

The estimated cost to the NHS of a GP appointment is on average £30.

That means appointments wasted by patients in East Sussex cost the health service an estimated £3,510,000 during the pandemic, according to new analysis by the JPIMedia Data Unit.

In East Sussex, no-shows represented five per cent of all GP slots – with an average of 350 appointments going to waste each day.

Across England, 9.6 million GP appointments were missed – almost one in every 25 appointments offered.

In total the missed appointments in England are estimated to have cost the NHS £288 million.

Health chiefs are urging patients to notify their GP practice if they need to cancel an appointment so it can be used for someone else.

The missed appointments include face-to-face appointments with family GPs and other practice staff, as well as home visits, telephone calls and video conferencing appointments.

NHS Bury CCG had the highest percentage of missed appointments with nine per cent of all appointments missed.

NHS South East London CCG had the greatest number of appointments missed, with over 346,000 slots.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said it can be ‘frustrating’ when patients don’t attend their GP appointments as the slot could be used for another patient.

“GPs and our teams have been working hard throughout the pandemic to ensure GP services are available, as well as playing a leading role in delivering the Covid vaccination programme,” he said.

“We would urge patients who no longer need their appointment to contact the surgery, at the earliest possible opportunity, so that valuable GP time can be used for the benefit of other patients.”

He added that while many cases are down to human error, missing an appointment could be a warning sign that something is wrong with a patient, requiring follow-up action from health workers.

Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s primary care medical director, added: “Everyone should continue to attend their medical appointments - including for screening and immunisations – as there are strict measures in place to keep patients safe.

“If you are unable to attend for any reason, our message is clear, please let us know so your appointment can be filled by another patient who may need it.”