Appointment no-shows are wasting vital nurse time

Amble Health Centre, part of the Coquet Medical Group.
Amble Health Centre, part of the Coquet Medical Group.

An under-pressure medical group is losing nearly a week of nurse time each month due to patients failing to attend appointments.

Coquet Medical Group, which serves more than 11,300 patients across the Amble, Warkworth and Broomhill areas, has unveiled the statistic. It comes as the NHS is under considerable pressure.

A Group statement said: ‘Every month we conduct thousands of face-to-face consultations as well as home visits, telephone calls and associated activities.

‘We do this on a fixed budget of less than £146 per patient per year. Most patients attend their GPs six times a year, but some attend over 40 times a year. At present there is a major shortage of GPs. Typically a GP gets just 10 minutes for each consultation, because of the huge demand. GPs have seen an 11 per cent drop in income since 2008 and only eight per cent of NHS spending goes on general practice: so it is hugely under-funded.

‘Coquet Medical Group has invested considerable time and effort in identifying patients likely to develop serious medical problems, but with slightly more funding we could do so much more to improve the health of our patients.

‘The chronic lack of GPs results in fewer GPs struggling with more and more work. This in turn contributes to difficulties with booking appointments, increased time-consuming complaints and GPs fire-fighting rather than innovating.

‘We recently examined our nurse appointments and the rate of people not attending. We refer to these as Did Not Attend patients (DNAs). We found that every month we have been losing nearly a whole week of nurse time due to patients failing to attend their nurse appointments.

‘The majority of GP appointments are now released on the day. This has significantly reduced the DNA rate for GPs, who can focus on patients who are unwell.

‘It will hopefully come as some reassurance to those who struggle to get an appointment that every morning and every afternoon we have a designated Duty GP. Once the appointments released on the day have been booked anyone wanting an appointment will be offered a telephone appointment with this Duty GP, who will then be able to review your problem and decide on the next step.

‘We are trying our best to provide high-quality, safe care, targeted at the people who genuinely need medical help the most, in a timely manner.’

The Group has issued advice to patients about how they can help, which includes using the service responsibly, advising if you can’t make an appointment and trying not to book in for multiple problems.