A plea from Wiltshire's GPs: If you cannot keep an appointment at your local surgery or medical practice - please let them know

Written by Tony Millett on .

Between July and November 2016, more than 31,000 GP, nurse and healthcare assistant appointments were missed across Wiltshire’s 55 GP Practices – the equivalent of over 1,033 days of general practitioner time.

Dr Peter Jenkins, Chair of Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group is urging patients to cancel their appointments if they are no longer required, or if they are unable to attend: "Practices will then be able to offer these appointments to other patients who need them and will help to reduce waiting times."

“The number of missed appointments across Wiltshire averages around 6,000 every month, a shocking statistic that is exacerbated during the winter months when practices typically face an increase in patient demand for appointments.”

Known in the NHS as ‘Did Not Attends’, missed appointments have a huge impact on the health economy, prevent other patients from being seen and waste the time of ever-stretched doctors and nurses. In Wiltshire, this boils down to a potential 6,000 patients missing out on an opportunity to be seen each month.

Dr Richard Sandford-Hill, a GP from Market Lavington Surgery, explained: “On average a GP will conduct 30 appointments per day and based on the total number of missed appointments for July – November 2016, that’s the equivalent of 1,033 days of general practitioner time that has been lost."

“It’s no secret that NHS resources are stretched to the hilt, which is why it’s really important that people understand the impact they have if they simply do not turn up. Everyone has responsibility to look after the NHS – it’s tax payers money after all – and we urge Wiltshire people to cancel their unwanted appointments so that those most in need are able to be seen more quickly”.

The news comes just days after the Prime Minister put part of the blame for  lengthening A&E queues on GPs who did not open 8am-to-8pm 24/7.  She said they could lose money if they did not open 'when patients want' - unless they could prove there was no demand from patients for seven-day opening.  

This angered GPs and gave rise to this Sun headline: "OPEN UP DOC: Theresa May orders clockwatching GPs to open up when patients want – or lose cash"

Referral centres:

Readers may have heard the BBC News report this morning that the British Medical Association is worried that 'referral centres' are causing 'dangerous' delays for patients who are referred by their GP for hospital treatment.

Many Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) use the centres to organise referrals - some are run by private firms.  The Wiltshire CCG uses its own in-house referral centre - only for elective treatment (that is not for emergency treatment) and mainly to offer patients speedier treatment if thy are prepared to travel further than their nearest hospital.

This referral centre is based at the CCG's headquarters in Devizes and started operating under the Primary Care Trust.  It has the full backing of local clinicians and may in the future be used for drug management reviews - making sure patients are not taking drugs that have become unnecessary and could, in the long term, cause them some harm.