More than 4 million general practice appointments have been missed this year, with patients being urged to inform their practice if they expect not to attend their consultation.
According to data published by NHS Digital, nearly 4.5 million appointments were left unattended between January and April this year, with 1.04 million skipped in April alone.
Despite this, 91.8% of all 25.3 million appointments were attended last month, with 48.8% carried out by a GP. Just under 11 million took place on the same day as they were booked.
Responding to the number of missed appointments, Professor Martin Marshall, RCGP chair, asked that patients keep practices informed, so teams can reschedule or offer a consultation to other patients.
He said: ‘Practice teams work hard to ensure patients are aware of their appointments by sending reminders by text and email or encouraging them to manage their appointments online or through the NHS app.
‘Our plea is for patients who are able to, and who no longer need their appointment, to contact the surgery as soon as they can to let them know they won’t be attending, so that consultations can be offered to other patients.’
However, he warned that the greater barrier affecting patients’ access to GP services is the workload pressures facing practice teams.
He urged the Government to deliver on its pledge to get 6,000 more GPs and 26,000 wider practice members working by 2024.
Health secretary Sajid Javid previously admitted that the Government will not fulfil its election pledge to recruit those GPs.
Recent data from NHS Digital indicated that 16,780 staff have been hired into ARRS roles since March 2019 and are now working as part of the wider practice team.
Last week, the Government cited the data in claiming it is ‘on track’ to deliver on its manifesto commitment.
However, the 18,200 figure it gave includes around 1,400 staff who were not employed under the ARRS, despite the scheme standing as the structure for meeting the target.
This story was initially published on our sister title Healthcare Leader.