One doctor’s surgery is bucking the trend of missed appointments.
Putnoe Medical Centre has slashed the number of no shows by around a third, from about 60 to 40 per week.
Dr Emmanuel Ochola from the centre said: “To try and avoid wasting appointments we text patients when they book an appointment and again on the day before they are due to attend.
“We publish the number of patients who fail to keep their appointments each week on the reception desk and on a badge worn by our receptionists. We also telephone patients who have longer appointments the day before to confirm their attendance. Our patients have responded positively to this.”
Across Bedford there were more than 11,500 no-shows at GP surgeries in the first five months of 2015.
At the practice in Goldington Avenue this amounted to 809 appointments - almost 135 hours of NHS staff time wasted.
Meanwhile, at London Road Medical Centre there were more than 600 missed appointments in the month of May alone - 139 hours of staff time.
Practice managers report that the peak time for missed appointments is in the winter months, which is when the NHS is facing its highest levels of demand.
Even people who book an urgent same day appointment to see a doctor or nurse sometimes do not turn up. At the Queen’s Park practice, 100 such appointments have been wasted since January.
Bedford GP and vice-chairman of Bedford Clinical Commissioning Group Dr Peter Parry Okeden said: “We understand that sometimes there is a valid reason for a patient not attending but we would encourage people to contact the practice if they no longer need an appointment. Practices now offer on-line booking which is more convenient and makes it easier to cancel or change an appointment.
“When people don’t cancel an appointment that they no longer need, other patients may be prevented from seeing a doctor or nurse. This adds to the length of time it can take to get an appointment with a GP.
“GPs are offering different types of appointment, including by phone, bookings via websites, sit and wait clinics and telephone consultations to help meet the needs of patients. We are asking people to be considerate to NHS staff and other patients – please turn up for your appointment or let the practice know in advance if you no longer need to be seen.”
At Putnoe Medical Centre the Patient Participation Group - made up of patients and GP practice staff - have helped improve appointment bookings, which can now be made up to four weeks in advance. Phone lines are open at lunchtime and patients can book appointments online.