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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Skates highlights headache of missed GP appointments

* Ken Skates MS with GP Gareth Bowdler (centre) and staff at Dee Valley Medical Centre in Overton. 

Thousands of local GP hours are being lost because of patients not turning up to appointments, says a Member of the Senedd. 

Llangollen Health Centre and its branch clinic in Glyn Ceiriog have had a total of 1,503 DNAs - did not attends in the past year.

Clwyd South MS Ken Skates found that at least 13,000 slots were missed at surgeries across his constituency between April 2023 and March this year. 

Local surgeries provided details of their ‘DNAs’ – did not attend – to Mr Skates, who is now urging people not to waste GPs’ precious time. 

“Of course, sometimes people will genuinely forget or something might come up at the last minute, but when people just can’t be bothered to turn up to appointments it has consequences for staff and other patients,” said Mr Skates. 

“Then there’s the cost of DNAs – missed appointments cost the Welsh NHS millions every year.” 

Caritas Surgery. which has branches in Cefn Mawr and Coedpoeth, was worst hit – with 3,332 DNAs over 11 months. Dee Valley Medical Centre in Overton had 1,756 over the same period, while Llangollen Health Centre and its branch clinic in Glyn Ceiriog recorded 1,503.

Ruabon Medical Centre was also badly affected, recording at least 2,930 DNAs over the 11-month period according to the surgery’s published data, while Chirk Surgery suffered 1,631 missed slots.

Mr Skates said: “If we take the average appointment as being 15 minutes, we are talking thousands of hours lost in Clwyd South. Those are hours that GP and primary care staff won’t get back where they could be helping other people. 

“Sometimes practices will write to those who don’t attend advising them of the impact it has on the surgery and its staff, but that costs more time and more money.” 

He added: “I highlighted this issue about 10 years ago, but sadly the problem appears to have got even worse. It’s a huge drain on resources.”

Mr Skates was able to get data for around half of the surgeries in his constituency. As a number do not publish their DNA information, the true number of missed appointments will be much higher. 

Of those which supplied or publish the information, Beech Avenue Medical Practice in Rhos had at least 1,379 missed appointments and Uwchaled Medical Practice in Corwen recorded 520 DNAs.

One practice manager said: “DNAs are an increasing problem, our rates have never been so high. It’s frustrating that we can’t take any real action against those who repeatedly do not attend.” 

The business manager of another surgery added: “We do have a protocol to write to offenders advising them of the impact of DNA, but it is not necessarily effective and of course it’s another task to have to find time for.” 

Ffion Johnstone, BCUHB’s Lead for Primary Care, said: “Missing an appointment wastes the time of hard-working GP surgery staff and deprives other patients of an opportunity to be seen, leading to longer waiting times. 

“At a time when resources are being stretched to meet record levels of demand in primary care, the significant number of missed appointments is something that our health service simply cannot afford. We urge patients to make every effort to attend their planned appointment and to let their GP surgery know if this is no longer possible.”

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