More than half of GPs think that patients should receive fines for missing their appointments, a Pulse survey has found.
The survey found that 51% agreed with the idea of introducing fines for did not attends (DNAs). A further 12% were undecided and 37% disagreed.
‘When some services appear 'free' some patients do not always appreciate the true costs to provide that service,’ said one GP from the South East.
The survey comes as GP appointments have become increasingly difficult to obtain, with average waiting times now hitting around 2 weeks (13 days) – up ten days from 2015.
Two years ago, Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had said that he had no problem ‘in principle’ with charging patients who missed appointments.
The British Medical Association (BMA), however, said they have ‘consistently opposed charges for patients as such a system would require an expensive, cumbersome bureaucracy to collect and issue fines’
A Glaswegian GP, opposed to the idea, argued that there were other ways of ensuring patients attend their appointments. By sending out text reminders prior to appointments and offering many on-the-day meetings, his practice has been able to ‘cut DNAs by over 900 appointments a year’.
Some GPs also expressed concerns that fines would result in additional costs because of the administrative effort required to collect the fines and subsequent appeals that might occur. Others also argued that they had enough work to do during the missed appointments that the DNAs did not represent too much of a loss of GPs time.
A spokesperson from the BMA said: ‘Those who may be most likely to miss appointments, particularly vulnerable patients, may also be the people who would be exempt from fines and fining them is not the way to address some none attendance issues.’