Higher death risk for patients who miss GP appointments

PATIENTS with long-term health conditions who miss GP appointments are at greater risk of premature death, according to new research.

The likelihood of missing appointments increased with the number of long-term conditions, particularly among patients with mental health issues. These patients were found to be at significantly greater risk of all-cause mortality.

The study in BMC Medicine found patients with long-term mental health conditions who missed more than two appointments per year had a greater than eight-fold increase in risk of all-cause mortality compared with those who missed no appointments. These patients died prematurely, commonly from non-natural external factors such as suicide.

Researchers concluded that missed appointments represent a “significant risk marker” for all-cause mortality, particularly in mental health patients. They described existing primary healthcare appointment systems as “ineffective” and urged practices to develop further interventions to increase attendance by these patients.

RCGP Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard echoed the report’s conclusions and said patients with long-term conditions need regular monitoring and treatment and advice tailored to their unique health needs.

She said: "People miss appointments for a range of reasons but this study highlights why it's more important to show compassion to people who fail to attend, rather than punishing them - for some, life gets in the way and they forget, but others might not turn up precisely because of their health issue.”

She called for additional funding for improved systems to better accommodate patients who struggled to attend GP appointments, including having more mental health therapists based in primary care.