Patients in Gainsborough who fail to keep appointments at GPs’ surgeries are causing increased waiting times for others.
That is the stark message from health officials in response to complaints about waiting times of up to four weeks to get to see a doctor.
The issue is being tackled at Caskgate Street Surgery in the town, where astonishing statistics underline the seriousness of the dilemma.
During February, March and April this year, a staggering total of 513 GP or nurse appointments were missed. In one month alone, as many as 198 patients failed to turn up for their appointments.
At a surgery where there are 11,000 patients on the register, this creates a backlog that, in turn, leads to longer waiting times for other patients. This is because the missed slots could have been filled by patients on the waiting list.
The problem has outraged members of the patient participation group at Caskgate Street Surgery. Its spokesman, Keith Thompson, said: “The most frequently raised issue from general patient-feedback remains the length of waiting time to see the GP which, in some cases, has been four weeks.
“Unfortunately, one of the main reasons for this is due to the number of appointments that are being missed.
“Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) claims that missed appointments cost £1.5 million annually, with 7,600 appointments missed in Lincoln, Gainsborough and the surrounding area in the past year. This money could be spent on getting more nurses, GPs or treatments.
“Caskgate Street Surgery operates a text-message reminder system to patients of their appointment, yet still we have this huge problem.
“The message is simple: if you no longer need your appointment or you are unable to attend, please contact the surgery to cancel it, so it may be offered to someone else.”
A spokesman for Lincolnshire West CCG said: “It is important booked appointments are kept by patients, or that surgeries are informed when an appointment is going to have to be missed for whatever reason. If that patient can’t make it, it’s important another patient is able to have that slot.”