Making patients pay a fine for missing their GP appointment is not the best approach to be followed in order to improve the service, according to chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), professor Helen Stokes-Lampard.
Despite acknowledging the rising level of frustration that GPs and practice staff in general experience when patients do not turn up for their appointments, Professor Stokes-Lampard warned that fines could negatively impact vulnerable patients.
She said: ‘Fining patients for not attending an appointment will adversely affect the most vulnerable in society and implementing the necessary systems to do this will only continue to overburden GPs and their teams by adding more bureaucracy when we are already facing intense workload pressures.’
Instead, she praised other measures that practices across the country are already adopting, such as ‘text messaging reminders to better patient education and awareness posters detailing the unintended consequences of a patient not attending’.
Professor Stokes-Lampard’s comments were made in response to a survey that our sister publication, Pulse, published last week. The survey showed that more than half of the participating GPs want to fine patients who miss their appointments.
Back in 2015, the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt said that patients missing GP and hospital appointments cost NHS England nearly £1bn a year.
Professor Stokes-Lampard said that GPs need to be aware that sometimes, a patient not attending appointments is indicative of something that might be wrong with them, and therefore a follow-up action is needed.
‘Ultimately, we need NHS England’s GP Forward View – promising £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs – to be delivered in full and as a matter of urgency, and we need equivalent promises made and delivered in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so that we can offer more appointments for patients, and deliver the care they need and deserve,’ said Professor Stokes-Lampard.