One in seven practices loses more than 10% of appointments to DNAs

Patients fail to turn up to more than 10% of appointments at one in seven GP practices, according to a GPonline survey that suggests over 17m appointments a year are lost to 'did not attends' (DNAs).

In the poll of 217 GP parnters, some 15% of respondents indicated that ‘10 or more’ appointments per 100 available at their practice were lost to DNAs.

Just 1% of partners said none of their appointments were lost to DNAs, and 2% said they lost one for every 100.

Respondents were most likely to report between 2% and 6% of appointments being lost to DNAs, which together accounted for 75% of the responses. Around 7% of partners estimated that between 7% and 9% of appointments result in DNAs.

According to the results, the average practice loses 5.1% of appointments to DNAs – although this is an underestimate that assumes all respondents who said ‘10 or more’ had 10 missed appointments in every 100.

Earlier this year GPC chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said he believed DNA rates were around 5%, which supports GPonline's findings.

GPs conduct around 340m appointments a year, according to figures from 2014, which would suggest over 17m appointments a year are lost to DNAs if this average 5.1% rate is applied.

Steps to reduce DNAs

Many respondents said they had implemented measures to help reduce DNAs – including text reminder systems, limits on how far ahead appointments can be booked and allowing patients to cancel online – but responses were mixed as to whether these have made a difference.

One said ‘extensive use’ of text reminders had ‘not appeared to affect DNA rate’, while another saw DNAs decline after implementing the system.

Many GPs said they sent letters to those who failed to attend warning them not to miss appointments, while some called people who repeatedly missed appointments, or insisted they came in for a meeting with the practice manager.

A handful of respondents suggested repeat offenders should be charged for appointments they do not turn up to. ‘I think patients who DNA without cancelling in time so that another can be booked should be charged,’ said one.

Another added: ‘There are no effective measures. Even having more book on the day or using text reminders makes no difference. We need to charge.’

One practice has taken a more creative approach: ‘We put a sign up saying how far we could have travelled the previous week using DNA time slots.’

In response to GPonline's latest poll, Dr Vautrey said: 'When practices are working as hard as possible to enable patient access, despite the severe limitations resulting from underfunding and workforce pressures, it's disappointing that so many patients are not attending booked appointments.

'Every appointment wasted in this way is one less available for a patient who really needs to see a GP.  It's important for patients to work with their practice to deal with this problem and ensure that wherever possible patients inform the practice at the earliest opportunity should they no longer need the appointment they booked.'

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