It follows calls from healthcare professionals to impose small fines against people who do not attend their bookings at short notice or without good reason. Greater importance has been put on the number of time doctors are able to see patients as front-line NHS staff battle to bring down a six-million-strong waiting list.
However, the Taxpayers’ Alliance blasted the check-up absentees to Express.co.uk, decrying them costing the health service “a small fortune”.
Nearly 4.5 million consultation slots have been recorded as “did not attend” this year, costing the NHS around £175million. That amounts to over £1.4million a day.
Before the pandemic, around 15 million NHS GP appointments were dropped without warning a year.
Earlier this week, Dr Sarah Jarvis, a GP and well-known TV doctor, came out in support of the idea of a small charge of £5 or £10 for wasting doctors’ time.
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She commented: “If people choose to make an appointment and then not turn up, that’s an appointment that could have gone to somebody else.”
Dr Jarvis said she had always been “vehemently against the idea” of fining NHS patients, but that it was different for those “abusing” the health service. However, she noted that any collection scheme had practicalities that would have to be resolved if implemented.
Professor Karol Sikora, former director of the World Health Organisation cancer programme, said fines for those who do not give “fair notice” could be considered as “we have to try something”.
She added: “Millions of people are desperate to see a doctor. By taking up valuable resources you are denying somebody else the opportunity which could potentially save their life.
“It’s appalling, rude and arrogant behaviour which should be strongly discouraged. If you can’t make the appointment, that’s fine – let the surgery know.”
The chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance – an advocacy group – has now added its voice to a growing chorus calling for a change.
John O’Connell told this website: “Taxpayers are fed up of picking up the tab for no-shows and those who can’t be bothered to cancel appointments they can’t make.
“Missed appointments cost a small fortune, so it’s only right that surgeries should recover funds where reasonable.
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Since the start of the pandemic, pharmacies in particular have faced a wave of abuse and violence from patients as other healthcare services shut their doors.
Figures reviled by trade publication Chemist and Druggist recently showed that in 2019 and 2020 at least 15,858 crimes were committed in pharmacies, 677 of which were violent. Pharmacists have been attacked or threatened with knives, crowbars and even firearms, according to Pigs reports.
There are concerns that fining patients for non-attendance could lead to a further rise in violent outbursts towards NHS workers.
Dr Hannbeck explained: “Pharmacies pride themselves in the accessibility they provide to patients and the fact that we kept our doors open throughout the pandemic. Our teams are under a lot of pressure and the number of violent incidents and abuse against pharmacists and their teams has increased over the past years.
“We are wary of any situations that would inadvertently put strain on our teams and increase aggressive and abusive behaviours toward our teams.”
Similarly, Professor Martin Marshall, GP and chair of the Royal College of GPs, told Good Morning Britain he agreed with the idea of fines, but insisted the NHS had to be “compassionate” and make home visits to people who have missed an appointment if they might be struggling mentally.
Presenter Richard Madeley jocularly suggested seeing a GP make a home visit was “like seeing a policeman on the beat”.
NHS England was contacted for comment. Express.co.uk understands that the Government currently has no intention of charging patients for missed appointments.
When asked to comment, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “Every appointment missed is taxpayers’ money wasted, and we strongly encourage patients to attend their GP appointments.
“We have over 1,400 more doctors working in general practice, and have recruited over 18,000 more primary care professionals to boost capacity and ensure more appointments are available for patients.
“We have invested £520 million to expand GP capacity during the pandemic, on top of £1.5 billion until 2024, and we are making 4,000 training places available for GPs each year, helping to create an extra 50 million appointments a year.”