Missed appointments can indicate something is wrong, says College

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a study in BMC Medicine on missed appointments.She said: “Patients with long-term conditions need regular monitoring and treatment and advice tailored to their unique health needs, so missing appointments and not being able to access that support has the potential to have a devastating impact on their wellbeing.”

“People miss appointments for a range of reasons, but this study highlights why it’s more important to show compassion to people who fail to attend, rather than punishing them – for some, life gets in the way and they forget, but others might not turn up precisely because of their health issue.”

“As this research has demonstrated, this particularly applies to patients with mental health conditions.”

“It can take a huge amount of courage to ask for help when living with a mental health problem, and for some people, social anxiety or simply not feeling strong enough to leave the house could be reasons why they then don’t make it to their appointment.”

“GPs try to be extremely sensitive to this and will attempt to chase up those they are particularly concerned about, but some patients will be living with a mental health issue that the GP is not aware of and so the risk heightens.”

“We need systems in place to better accommodate for these situations and the starting point is having more mental health therapists based in primary care, where the majority of mental health issues are identified and managed.”

“Ultimately, we need substantially more investment in general practice across the board. NHS England’s GP Forward View promises an extra £2.5bn a year for general practice, and the NHS Long Term Plan announced this week guarantees that our profession will receive a significant share of the funding outlined for primary and community care. We need these pledges turned into a reality as a matter of urgency so that we have sufficient numbers of GPs and the wider practice team to give all our patients the care they need and deserve.”