Charges for missed appointments mooted by health secretary

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has put forward the idea of charging patients for missing their appointments, in a bid to drive down no-shows.

New estimates have put the cost of missed appointments at nearly £1 billion, made up of £750 million in missed hospital appointments and £162 million for DNAs (Did Not Attends) at GPs’ surgeries. With the government continuing its money-saving drive, Hunt has said the UK’s population needs to “take personal responsibility” if the NHS is to continue.

One suggestion for this was to charge patients who miss GP appointments. Whilst there are no current plans for this to happen, it’s one of the numerous ideas put forward by the health secretary.

Other options included different labelling on medication. Hunt explained how he wanted the cost of prescriptions displayed on packets, along with the words “funded by the UK taxpayer” for any that cost £20 or more. This, he claimed, would help save on the £300 million wasted every year on medication that’s prescribed but not used.

By the end of the current parliament, Britain is expected to have one million extra people over the age of 70, putting an even greater strain on the health service. In response to this, Hunt told the audience at BBC Question Time: “If we’re going to square the circle and have a fantastic NHS, despite all those pressures, then we have to take personal responsibility for the way that we use NHS resources.”

Hunt added that he did not have a problem “in principle” with charging for missed appointments. Using previous figures, it emerged that missed appointments cost the NHS the equivalent of 27 million pyjamas, 655,870 ambulance call outs or one entire hospital every single year. These new figures, however, could send those totals more than six times higher.

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