GPonline analysis of official data published by NHS Digital last month found that more than 16m appointments at GP practices are lost every year because of DNAs - the equivalent of the annual output of 375 average practices.
NHS England said today that of these, around 7.2m are with GPs, which equates to more than 1.2m GP hours wasted each year, which costs the NHS more than £200m. It added that cutting missed appointments would help practices to better cope with winter pressures.
NHS England acting director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani, said: ‘We know that timely access to general practice appointments are a priority for the public which is why we are growing the workforce and offering evening and weekend appointments.
‘The NHS long term plan will set out how we will build on this progress but patients can do their part by letting the NHS know if they can’t make their slot – freeing up doctors, nurses and other professionals to see those who do need care and attention.
‘This is particularly important as we go in to winter. Our message is clear: if you cannot make it to your appointment or no longer need a consultation, please let your GP practice know in advance so the appointment can be filled by another patient.’
Last month a GPonline poll released that three quarters of GP partners believe that their practice will struggle to cope this winter because of workforce problems, heavy demand and underfunding. GP leaders have previously warned that practices would be stretched the limit this winter.
Meanwhile, further analysis of the NHS Digital data suggests that patients are nearly three times as likely to miss appointments booked with GP practices a day in advance as same-day appointments. For appointments booked on the day the 'did not attend' (DNA) rate for practices in England is just 1.9%, compared with 5% for appointments booked a day in advance - 2.6 times higher.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘When patients miss appointments it can be a frustrating waste of resources for GPs and our teams, but also for other patients who are struggling to secure an appointment for themselves.
‘There may be many reasons why a patient might miss an appointment, and in some cases it can be an indication that something serious is going on for that individual – but we would urge patients to let us know if they can’t attend as soon as possible, so that we can offer that time to someone else who really needs it.’