Missed GP appointments in East Lancashire have already set the NHS back almost £1 million this year, figures reveal.
Patients failed to attend 31,466 face-to-face consultations with doctors and nurses between January and April 2019, NHS Digital data shows. The average cost for an appointment in England is £30, meaning no-shows in east Lancashire cost the NHS an estimated £943,980 over the four months - £7,867 a day.
The total so far this year is already enough to pay the annual salary of 41 full-time nurses. And with sessions usually lasting around 10 minutes, unattended appointments meant GPs and other practice staff wasted 5,244 hours of consulting time, the equivalent of 31 weeks.
The Royal College of GPs said missed sessions are "a frustrating waste of resources" for GPs, and for other patients struggling to secure time with their doctors. As of April this year, a total of 499,255 face-to-face consultations have been booked with GPs and other practice staff in the East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group.
Of those, one in 16 was missed, without the patient calling in to cancel or reschedule. Cancelled appointments are not included in the figures, as the surgery can offer those slots to other patients.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: "We would urge patients to let us know if they can't attend as soon as possible, so we can offer that time to someone who really needs it. Many patients are waiting far too long for a GP appointment, and we can all do our bit to help."
Almost 4.5 million patients have failed to attend appointments in England this year, racking up estimated costs of more than £130 million. The British Medical Association said it was vital that appointments were not wasted at a time of intense pressure on the NHS.
Dr Richard Vautrey, the association's GP committee chair, said: "We believe that the NHS should make it clear to the public that, given current pressures on the health service, patients should make every possible effort to attend or rearrange their appointment to avoid time and money being wasted."
NHS England has urged patients to do their part to cut down on missed appointments.
Primary Care director Dr Nikki Kanani said: "Our message is clear: if you cannot make it to your appointment, or no longer need a consultation, please let your practice know in advance so the appointment can be filled by another patient."