Missed GP appointments in South Tyneside could be costing the NHS £1.2 million a year.
New figures from practices across the borough suggest that almost 3,000 appointments are missed with the borough’s GPs every month – costing the NHS in South Tyneside an estimated £1.2m a year and making it harder for other patients to see a GP.
South Tyneside has 26 GP practices, serving 156,011 patients, with every GP consultation costing £36 to the NHS. A consultation with a trained pharmacist through the Think Pharmacy First scheme - which encourages patients to visit their local pharmacist - costs the NHS £3.40, while every visit to the emergency department costs £111.
Ros Whitehead, practice engagement lead for NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Most people take the time to notify their practice if they can’t make it to an appointment, but a significant minority do not.
“Our figures suggest that around 3,000 appointments are being wasted every month. We understand that people have busy lives, but every one of these is a slot that could have been used by someone else.
“With health services facing high levels of demand over the winter period, this is one way we can all help to protect the NHS. It only takes minutes to make that call!”
Over the past year, NHS leaders have called on patients to help reduce the pressure on GPs in South Tyneside by visiting pharmacists for free, professional advice on a range of minor health problems under the Think Pharmacy First scheme.
Recent figures show that South Tyneside patients seeking advice from pharmacists have helped to free up around 35 GP appointments per practice every month for people in more urgent need.
Dr Matthew Walmsley, a local GP and chair of NHS South Tyneside CCG, said: “Regular NHS surveys show that people in South Tyneside are generally happier with the experience of getting to see their GP, compared to the national average, but we know there is room for improvement.
“Practices are working on a number of initiatives to make it easier to see your GP, and everyone can help by not wasting appointments as well as taking a moment to consider the most appropriate service each time.
“In many practices, receptionists play a key role in identifying the general nature of the problem, so they can ensure you see the right member of the team, or are referred elsewhere if appropriate.
“More patients are now taking the chance to get free advice about minor health problems from community pharmacists, which helps to ease the pressure on GPs.