Tens of thousands of GP appointments were wasted during the coronavirus pandemic in Northamptonshire because patients failed to attend them.
Analysis of official NHS data reveals 92,152 appointments were not attended by patients across NHS Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) from April 2020 to February 2021.
That cost the health service an estimated £2.8 million with appointments worth £30 on average, according to new analysis by the JPIMedia Data Unit, which this newspaper is part of.
No-shows represented three per cent of all GP slots in the county – with an average of 276 appointments going to waste each day.
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.
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.
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.
Across England, 9.6 million were missed – almost one in every 25 appointments offered - at an estimated cost to the NHS of just over £288 million.
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.
NHS England’s primary care medical director Nikki Kanani 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.”