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New drive to reduce missed GP appointments

12 million GP appointments missed per year costing £162m

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 03 March 2014

NHS England is today launching a new initiative aimed at cutting the number of missed GP appointments by focusing on greater use of technology.

Currently, it is estimated that more than twelve million GP appointments are missed each year in the UK, costing around £162 million while a further six million outpatient hospital appointments are also missed per year in the UK.

As part of NHS Change Day, taking place today and tomorrow at the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester, NHS England is launching a campaign that focuses on technology to tackle the problem of missed appointments.

NHS Change Day is a call to action for staff, patients and the public and follows last year’s first ‘Change Day’, which involved 189,000 pledges including some from members of the public to do one positive thing to make the NHS better.

This year’s Change Day has so far received more than 314,300 pledges online.

As part of the initiative, NHS England said it wanted the public to help reduce missed appointments, known as Did Not Attends (DNAs), which can cause serious delays in treatment for other patients.

In addition, by making the appointment system fit into patient’s lives more easily, the NHS could cut the numbers of missed appointments.

Straightforward steps such as sending email and text reminders were now used by many clinics and were already beginning to have an impact – outpatient DNAs fell to 9.1% from 10.5% in 2008-9.

NHS England said it wanted to see more use of such technology, including greater use of solutions that let patients check, book and cancel appointments at their own convenience and order repeat medication online.

Doctors could use smartphones and tablets to connect with patients in ways such as outpatient consultations via Skype, which was becoming increasingly common for patients who did not need a physical examination.

Telecare and telehealth services were also expanding, allowing patients to monitor their health at home and access medical advice without regular visits to their surgery.

Beverley Bryant, director of strategic systems and technology at NHS England, said: “It’s important that people realise that not turning up to appointments can have a big impact on the care and treatment we are able to give other patients. It wastes doctors’ and nurses’ time too, which costs taxpayers money.

“Patient care is always at the top of our agenda. That‘s why we are doing everything we can to make our service match with people’s lifestyles and the technology they use, to give more people easy access to the services they need.  We hope the public will do their bit too by making sure they attend or cancel appointments in good time.”

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