Credit: This story was first seen on the Daily Mirror
Millions of needless GP appointments cost the cash-starved NHS over £300m a year, the Daily Mirror reports.
Patients are being bounced back from hospitals to GPs for 13.5 million unnecessary appointments a year.
These ‘boomerang’ appointments force patients to take extra time off work, delay vital treatments and cost the NHS £306m a year.
Campaigners say cuts to admin staff are causing mistakes on overstretched wards forcing the sick and elderly into pointless repeat GP appointments.
These were to obtain routine medicine or book follow-up hospital appointments which should have been dealt with on the ward.
The 13.5 million figure was included in a letter seen by the Mirror sent to all chief executives of NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts calling for changes to reduce the waste in 2016/17.
It is revealed after 250,000 people, including burnt out NHS workers, marched in central London against Conservative cuts to the health service.
The letter said: ‘Time taken in setting up and rearranging hospital appointments as well as chasing up delays in discharge letters and details of changes in medication accounted for 4.5% of GP appointments that could have potentially been avoided. This amounts to around 13.5 million appointments a year. Freeing up this time will enable GPs the ability to see patients more quickly, thereby reducing the likelihood of A&E attendances and emergency admissions.
‘Closer working relationships with greater communication and sharing of information between GPs and consultants and their respective teams were identified as being crucial to reducing workload on both sides.’
The letter was sent jointly by NHS England’s national director of operations Matthew Swindells and NHS Improvement’s deputy chief executive Robert Alexander last July.
The data comes from a detailed audit of 5,128 GP appointments which were assessed by 56 working GPs.
Christina McAnea, head of health for Unison, said: “Cuts to admin staff have left hospitals struggling to cope. The government is demanding more so-called efficiency savings. But what the NHS needs is more money and now.”
GP practices are paid around £136 per patient per year and patients consult six times on average according to official figures.
The average cost of an appointment with a doctor is £22.60 meaning that the 13.5 million unnecessary appointments cost the health service £306 million.
An estimated 7.5 million unnecessary appointments were due to hospitals not booking follow-up appointments. A further six million were due to patients being forced to see a GP for a prescription which should have been dealt with on ward.
NHS England said it has ordered changes to reduce the millions of boomerang appointments.
A spokesman for NHS England said: “This letter was sent to all NHS Trusts, Foundation Trusts and CCGs to emphasise new contractual requirements that form part of the support measures set out in the General Practice Forward View. These measures include electronic discharge summaries to be sent by hospitals to GPs, an end to blanket requirements for patients to go back to a GP if they miss a hospital appointment and protocols to ensure patients leave hospital with sufficient medication and not instantly having to visit their GP for a new prescription.”