The Royal College of GPs says missed appointments are “frustrating” for doctors but warned that non-attendance could be for many reasons, including underlying mental health issues.
NHS Digital data shows that last year an estimated 32,020 appointments were missed without enough notice to invite other patients in the Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group area – an average of 88 per day.
This includes appointments with nurses, therapists and other practice staff, as well as doctors.
A missed GP appointment costs around £30, according to NHS England, meaning the NHS Scarborough and Ryedale CCG could have lost out on around £961,000 through patient no-shows last year.
A survey by Pulse magazine found that four in ten GPs would be in favour of charging patients for appointments.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Missed appointments are very frustrating, especially when GPs could be seeing other patients – but, for some patients, there may be more complex reasons for non-attendance and it could indicate something more serious, such as underlying mental health issues.
“Charging for appointments – missed or otherwise – would fundamentally change one of the founding principles of the NHS, that access is free at the point of need. It is also unlikely that the benefits would outweigh the costs of implementing it.”
An NHS England spokesperson said: “As part of the NHS Long Term Plan we are investing record amounts of money in primary care services and treating more patients, but GPs are seeing an increase in demand – which is why the message is clear: if you cannot make it to your appointment or no longer need a consultation please let your GP practice know in advance so the appointment can be filled.”