Patients open to £10 fine for missed GP appointments, poll suggests

Patients are willing to accept a fine of around £10 on average for missing a GP appointment, a poll suggests.

The poll of more than 500 UK people found that nearly a third were willing to accept a fine of £10 or more for a missed GP appointment.

A total of 22% would accept a fine between £5 and £9, the poll found, while 13% would accept a fine below £5. Just 29% of respondents said they would not be prepared to pay anything for a missed appointment. The average fine patients said they would accept was just over £10.

Missed GP appoinments have a huge impact on practice workload, with around 14m appointments lost each year to DNAs, according to GPonline analysis.

Infographic: How DNAs affect general practice

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline last year that patients were waiting longer for GP appointments because of the huge amount of time wasted by missed consultations.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested last year he was open to the idea of charging patients for missed appointments.

But GP leaders remain opposed to fines over concerns about increased bureaucracy and fears that the move would hit patients with the lowest income hardest.

Speaking ahead of a debate on the issue, two leading figures within general practice dismissed fines for missed appointments.

Professor of primary healthcare Trisha Greenhalgh said: 'Charging people to attend their GP would be a false economy, because some people - especially poor people - with early, treatable disease would delay attending until their symptoms got a bit worse.

GP access

'Inevitably, this will mean that we will fail to diagnose some cancers until they have spread; we will not pick up some type 2 diabetes until it has damaged the eyes and the kidneys; and we will push some heart attacks and strokes beyond the window when early treatments could have improved survival.

'Furthermore, we will add a layer of expensive paperwork to the system, which will eat into any savings. I have no doubt that this strategy will save little money in the short term and will generate huge financial and human costs in the longer term.'

Virginia Patania, practice manager at the Jubilee Street practice and a leading Save our Surgeries campaigner added: 'There is evidence to demonstrate that DNA rates are closely linked to delays between appointments and the time of their booking.

'Same day or 48-hour clinical triage systems demonstrate not only higher levels of patient satisfaction and better use of limited clinical resource, but DNA rates of 2% or less. This suggests that investment would be most wisely directed towards refining out of date, overstretched appointment systems, rather than on financially penalising patients in need of care.'

The poll was commissioned by Astellas Pharma Europe ahead of its Innovation Debate held in London on 25 February.

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