The number of people who missed GP appointments has hit a year-high, statistics revealed today as plans to fine culprits £10 were renewed.
Almost 1.4million GP appointments were missed in September this year, according to official NHS data.
It is the highest monthly toll since November last year (1.43m).
It comes after it emerged that Rishi Sunak is standing by his plan to fine those who miss GP appointments £10.
If the controversial measure was in place throughout 2022, the Government could have already raised more than £100m.
Almost 1.4million GP appointments were missed in September this year, according to official NHS data. It is the highest monthly toll since November last year (1.43m)
It comes after it emerged that Rishi Sunak is standing by his plan to fine those who miss GP appointments by £10. If the controversial measure was in place throughout 2022, the Government could have already raised more than £100m
The Prime Minister ‘stands by the sentiment’ of the promise he made during the Tory leadership contest in the summer, it was claimed.
He is ‘definitely committed to ensuring that we get the best value for taxpayers, the best value for money out of the NHS’, the Daily Telegraph reported a spokesperson as saying.
However, Mr Sunak needs to discuss it with newly-appointed Health Secretary Steve Barclay first before any commitment can be confirmed.
When he first raised the plan, Mr Sunak acknowledged it was controversial but said it was necessary to stop doctors’ time being wasted.
He proposed it be put in place until the growing NHS backlog caused by the pandemic was ‘reduced to manageable levels’.
Under the plan people would be fined from the second appointment they miss, with the patient ‘given the benefit of the doubt’ the first time they missed one.
It comes as the proportion of face-to-face GP appointments in September hit 68.1 per cent, the highest it has been since the start of the pandemic, the NHS Digital data revealed
NHS staff vote on strike action TODAY
Hundreds of thousands of health workers will today vote on whether to strike over pay as a winter of discontent looms over Britain – with railways, postal services, food production and travel all set to be hit by industrial action.
Around 350,000 members of Unison working for more than 250 health trusts and boards across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, are being balloted on Thursday.
Porters, nurses, security guards, paramedics, cleaners, midwives, occupational therapists and other NHS staff are among those being asked if they want to stage walk outs. Around 50,000 Unison health employees in Scotland are already being balloted.
Other unions, including the Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives, have also been balloting their members, raising the prospect of the first ever UK-wide walk out of NHS nurses.
It comes as some 3,500 Border Force, immigration and visa officers are threatening to strike over the holiday period – potentially bringing hours long queues at airports and ports when millions will be travelling abroad to see families and friends.
Meanwhile more than 115,000 postal workers went on strike on Tuesday, while a calendar of further rail chaos is planned for this month.
And the PCS union, representing more than 150,000 civil servants, including additional Border Force and immigration officers, will hold a separate ballot on industrial action on November 7.
Unison urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to increase the rise of £1,400 awarded to health workers in England earlier in the summer.
More than 15million appointments are not attended by patients at GP surgeries every year.
Half of these are with busy family doctors, which means that 1.2million hours of their time go to waste every year.
The annual cost of missed appointments is £216million, enough to pay the annual salaries of 2,325 full-time GPs, according to the now Prime Minister’s campaign.
It comes as the proportion of face-to-face GP appointments in September hit 68.1 per cent, the highest it has been since the start of the pandemic, the NHS Digital data revealed.
More than 19million GP appointments were made for the month, a figure that had remained between 15-17million for the majority of this year, with GPs making more telephone appointments, according to the data.
In the summer the British Medical Association, the union representing doctors, condemned the plan to fine people £10 for missing an appointment.
After the release of today’s figures, Dr Farah Jameel, chair of the BMA’s GP committee, said they ‘strongly encourage patients to do their best to attend their GP appointments’, especially given the ‘huge shortage of GPs trying to care for ever-increasing patient numbers’.
However, he said: ‘There are many reasons why someone might not attend their appointment though, which is why a one-size-fits-all approach of charging them will not work – and could actually increase pressure on staff by creating another, unnecessary administrative burden and lead to increased anxiety on the part of many patients.
‘Fining patients is also likely to discourage them from rebooking, thereby increasing already-worsening health inequalities and ultimately costing the NHS more.
‘Charging for missed GP and hospital appointments would not only undermine the essential trust between doctor and patient, but also threaten the fundamental NHS principle of delivering care free at the point of need.’
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘It’s always frustrating to hear about missed GP appointments, particularly at a time when we have nowhere near enough GPs to meet increasing need for our services, as these could have been used for other patients.
‘But charging for appointments is not the answer.
‘It would fundamentally change the principle that the NHS is free at the point of need and would likely impact on our most vulnerable patients most – and it would add another layer of bureaucracy to a GP service already drowning in red tape.’
NHS England’s director of primary care Dr Ursula Montgomery said: ‘Thanks to the relentless efforts of GP led teams, tens of millions of people are getting seen by local clinicians across the country, while the highest proportion of face-to-face appointments took place last month since before the pandemic.
‘GP teams also delivered over 858,000 Covid-19 vaccinations last month as the autumn booster rollout started, and those eligible for an autumn booster or flu vaccination should continue to come forward to get protected ahead of winter.’