Fed-up doctors have taken the drastic step of threatening to strike patients off the register for repeatedly failing to attend appointments - as a shock new survey revealed thousands of 'no shows' across Sheffield.
Health chiefs revealed 5, 600 appointments out of 90, 000 were missed at 10 GP practices surveyed in Sheffield between January and March this year.
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That equates to 6, 700 hours of lost time for GPs and more than 2, 200 hours for nurses and healthcare assistants. And with the average appointment estimated to cost £30 these wasted slots also left already overstretched NHS services about £168, 000 out of pocket.
The statistics were revealed as part of a new city-wide campaign launched today aimed at cracking down on the issue of DNAs (Did Not Attends).
Two doctors surgeries in south Sheffield have already taken the unusual step of issuing a hard-hitting message to patients warning they could be taken off the list if they persistently fail to attend appointments.
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The warning came from GPs at Meadowgreen Health Centres in Greenhill and Lowedges as they highlighted an "increase" in people failing to turn up to see their doctor.
The message, posted to their website earlier this year but since removed, read: "If you repeatedly fail to attend appointments you may be removed from this practice list and required to find an alternative doctor."
Upperthorpe and Ecclesall Medical Centres has also suffered the same problem and posted on their website that 256 appointments were missed in a single month.
In a statement, the practice said: "On average we are losing 60 to 90 minutes of GP and nurse time per day due to missed appointments."
Chapeltown Practice, which has surgeries in Chapeltown and High Green, registered 2, 912 missed appointments in the whole of 2017.
Dr Amar Rughani, a GP at the practice, said: “A missed appointment means another patient misses out on vital care, and it increases demand and pressure on already-stretched local practices.
"Cancelling an appointment if you know you can’t make it is a really easy way for us all to help our local NHS to help us.”
Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group warned that the problem could be much more widespread as there are 82 doctors surgeries across the city.
Katrina Cleary, programme director of primary care at the CCG, described DNAs as a 'major issue' for some surgeries.
She added: "We all want to work with the public so that hopefully we can avoid the circumstances when practices have to make the difficult decision to consider removing someone from their list in the interest of all their patients.
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"GPs do not take these decisions lightly and it is only in extreme instances where this would happen.”
In addition to GP surgeries, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust revealed last month that they faced a similar challenge in getting patients to keep appointments.
The trust highlighted how patients did not attend 85, 000 outpatient appointments at Sheffield hospitals between April 2017 and March 2018.
As part of the Sheffield CCG ‘Can’t make it? Cancel it!’ campaign, doctors teamed up with pupils at Ecclesfield School to design 'DNA (Did Not Attend) Man'.
Life-size cut outs of the superhero figurehead will now be appearing in practices across Sheffield, accompanied by messages reminding patients to cancel appointments if they cannot meet them.