Missed GP appointments in Wigan have already set the NHS back hundreds of thousands of pounds this year, shocking figures reveal.
Patients failed to attend a whopping 25,047 face-to-face consultations with doctors and nurses between January and April alone, NHS Digital data shows.
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The average cost for an appointment in England is £30, meaning no-shows in Wigan cost the NHS an estimated £751,410 over the four months - £6,262 a day.
The total so far this year is already enough to pay the annual salary of 33 full-time nurses.
And with sessions usually lasting around 10 minutes, unattended appointments meant GPs and other practice staff wasted 4,175 hours of consulting time, the equivalent of 25 weeks.
The Royal College of GPs said missed sessions were “a frustrating waste of resources” for GPs and for other patients struggling to secure time with their doctors.
As of April, a total of 392,011 face-to-face consultations have been booked with GPs and other practice staff in NHS Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Of those, one in 16 was missed without the patient calling in to cancel or reschedule.
Cancelled appointments are not included in the figures, as the surgery can offer those slots to other patients.
Dr Tim Dalton, chairman of NHS Wigan Borough CCG, said: “About six per cent of GP appointments in the borough are missed by patients who just don’t turn up.
“Most practices now offer online booking, text reminders and text cancellations, so it is easier than ever for patients to cancel appointments and we are seeing lots of people using these tools to successfully manage their appointments.
“It is therefore a real shame that so far this year we have had about 25,000 appointments going to waste.
“If you no longer need an appointment, or can’t make it for any reason, please just let the practice know so it can be offered to someone else who does need it.”
RCGP chairman Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “We would urge patients to let us know if they can’t attend as soon as possible, so we can offer that time to someone who really needs it.
“Many patients are waiting far too long for a GP appointment and we can all do our bit to help.”
Almost 4.5m patients have failed to attend appointments in England this year, racking up estimated costs of more than £130m.
The British Medical Association said it was vital that appointments were not wasted at a time of intense pressure on the NHS.
Dr Richard Vautrey, the association’s GP committee chairman, said: “We believe that the NHS should make it clear to the public that, given current pressures on the health service, patients should make every possible effort to attend or rearrange their appointment to avoid time and money being wasted.”
NHS England has urged patients to do their part to cut down on missed appointments.
Primary care director Dr Nikki Kanani said: “Our message is clear: if you cannot make it to your appointment, or no longer need a consultation, please let your practice know in advance so the appointment can be filled by another patient.”