MORE than one million people fail to attend GP appointments every month, costing the NHS £200 million a year.
Analysis of the latest figures from NHS Digital, published by the Times newspaper, showed as many as 20,000 appointments were missed every day.
From June to November 2019, 7.8 million patients in England "did not attend" (DNA) – an average of 42,822 per day. Around half of the appointments were to see doctors with the rest for nurses or other healthcare professionals.
The analysis also noted that DNAs had increased from two years ago when one in 25 patients missed appointments compared to one in 20.
While the NHS said it had no formal national policy for dealing with persistent non-attenders, surgeries used a range of tactics to tackle the problem. The Times reported how some surgeries remind patients via texts, emails or letters, but another said it deregistered patients who DNA three times.
The Royal College of GPs said that the reasons for non-attendance may be complex and practices must be given the resources for patient follow-up.
Chair Professor Martin Marshall said: "In many cases, missed appointments will be simple human error, and practices are working hard to ensure that patients are aware of their appointments by sending reminders by text and email or encouraging them to make appointments through the surgery app.
"However, non-attendance can also indicate something more serious, such as underlying mental health issues, and it would be helpful if practices had more time and resource to follow up patients they might have particular concerns about and determine their reasons for not using their appointment.
"At a time when we have a severe shortage of GPs and patients in many areas of the country are having to wait weeks to see their family doctor, we would urge patients who no longer need their appointment to contact the surgery at the earliest possible opportunity so that valuable GP time can be used for the benefit of other patients."