In his recent post-election budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, unveiled his funding plans for the NHS, which include £8 billion in additional support by 2020. However, Mr Osborne was keen to stress that efficiency savings of £22 billion must also be realised by the NHS over the next five years, if it is to address its £30 billion funding gap.
When it comes to waste and reducing costs, one area that has received a lot of attention recently is missed GP and hospital appointments. According to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, missed appointments cost the NHS around £1 billion per year – £162 million for missed GP appointments and £750 million for missed hospital appointments.
Over 61,000 GP appointments are going to waste every day because patients are failing to show up for them, a new study by the Daily Mail has revealed. This equates to a staggering 14.1 million appointments per year and it’s a reality that has become a “plague”, according to GPs.
Others Struggle to Get Appointments
Despite all these missed appointments, more than one in 10 people in England could not get a GP appointment or had to wait a week or more the last time they tried, according to the GP patient survey, which gained responses from 858,381 people.
It’s a contrasting situation that needs addressing and some campaigners have called for fines to be given to patients who miss appointments – an idea that the Health Secretary sympathised with recently.
While there are no set plans for this to happen and the government has been quick to downplay the suggestion, Mr Hunt’s stance emphasises the need for changes to be made to the current system.
Speaking on BBC One’s Question Time, Mr Hunt said: “If we’re going to square the circle and have a fantastic NHS, despite all those pressures, we have to take personal responsibility about how we use NHS resources.
“I don’t have a problem in principle with charging people for missed appointments, in practical terms it is difficult to do.
“But I have taken a step towards that this week by announcing that when people do miss an appointment they will be told how much that will cost the NHS as a first step.”
Cost of Medicine to be Displayed on Packet
Mr Hunt also announced plans that would see the cost of prescription medicines placed on the packaging. The cost, as well as the words “funded by the UK taxpayer”, will be added to all prescription medication costing over £20 in England.
Patients miss appointments for a variety of reasons, many of them genuine. The bottom line, however, is that the NHS needs to realise significant cost savings and efficiency gains if it’s to continue providing the sterling service it has become famed for. Addressing the missed appointments problem will go some way to help reduce the overall funding deficit.
Private healthcare has an important role to play in all of this and can effectively supplement and complement the work the NHS does by reducing waiting times and providing patients with the peace-of-mind they deserve.
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