Every year more the 12 million GP appointments are missed, costing the British taxpayer £160 million. In addition, many prescribed medications are collected but not actually used by patients, adding unnecessarily to the huge NHS bill.
These are issue that have long plagued the NHS. Many patients believe that no harm is done if they miss an appointment, as there is always someone else to fill it. In reality this is not the case, by the time the appointment comes around it’s too late to offer it to a patient. These “gaps” in the GP’s working day are a contribution towards longer waiting times for appointments (as the optimum number of patients cannot be seen in a day) and increasing pressure on GPs to stay open longer, which in turn costs the NHS money.
The NHS is still charged by the GP for missed appointments, meaning that money is being spent on services that offer no benefit to the public.
There have long been calls for patients who miss appointments without good reason to be charged, acting as both a deterrent for regular offenders and to recoup the huge cost to the service. Health Minister Jeremy Hunt has considered this option, but is concerned at how this policy could be enforced.
Instead, Mr Hunt, is focusing on cutting the medicines bill by printing the cost of medication to the NHS on all packets costing more than £20. NHS patients currently pay a fixed fee when collecting a prescription, but this does not cover the full cost of the medicine charged to the NHS. It is hoped that by letting patients know how much has been paid for their treatment, they will only accept it if they are going to use it.
During a Question Time Mr Hunt said “We have to take personal responsibility for the way we use NHS resources”.
Labour party leader candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, points the finger at pharmaceutical companies, as opposed to careless patients, for the NHS medicines bill. He says that the NHS is effectively held to ransom by the high prices charged by private pharmaceutical manufacturers. He does not support a policy to charge patients for missed appointments. He said “I think it would be very hard to collect it … there are lots of reasons people miss appointments”.
Whilst there may be difference of opinion as to how wasted costs in the NHS should be managed, there is agreement that it is an acute problem. Patients are strongly encouraged to cancel appointments they cannot attend in good time so that it can be allocated to other patients, and only to take medication that they are going to use. These are such simple steps, but the value of the £160 million gain to the NHS is immeasurable.