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8 February 2017, 09:51 | Updated: 8 February 2017, 09:52
A new campaign targeting people who don't cancel their GP appointments starts today across mid and south Essex.
More than 12,000 slots are wasted every month across the patch due to people failing to show up to their surgeries after booking out time with a GP.
GP leaders say the missed appointments are contributing to increased waiting times in practice and could be contributing to more people with minor illnesses going to local A&E departments for treatment.
Data shows that nearly 500 GP appointments were missed in one week across Castle Point and Rochford with many more patients not showing up in Southend. The situation is even worse in Thurrock where in December 2016, around 2,900 appointments were wasted across GP practices.
It is estimated that 450 hours of GP appointment time is wasted per month across Basildon and Brentwood. While in mid Essex, 240 people failed to attend appointments at their GP practices in just one day.
Dr José Garcia Lobera, local GP and Chair of NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "As GPs we work hard to meet the needs of our patients and make it as easy as possible for them to see their doctor. But we need patients to do their bit too by letting us know if they need to cancel or rearrange their appointment.
"The knock on effect of someone missing their appointment is that some patients who cannot see their GP choose to go to A&E instead and this puts pressure on the hospital. Patients should make sure they attend an appointment if they book one or cancel it if they no longer need it, so it can be made available to someone else.
"There are now many ways of cancelling an appointment, via online services, telephone and even by text in some areas."
¢ Make sure you make a note of your appointment either in a diary, calendar or on your smart phone and ideally set yourself a reminder
¢ Register for online services, speak to your GP practice about how to do this - appointments can be easily cancelled at the touch of a button 24/7
¢ Ask your GP practice if they have a text message reminder service
NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups across mid and south Essex are working together to raise awareness of the impacts of missed appointments and to help educate local people about tools such as online GP services that help to make cancelling GP appointments easy.
The communications campaign, which is due to launch later this month will include lots of methods to get messages out to the public including bus adverts, a social media campaign and signs on refuse trucks to help raise awareness of how many appointments are being thrown away.
Dr Kashif Siddiqui, of NHS Castle Point and Rochford CCG, added: "The ability to book and cancel GP appointments online is available at most practices and offers a really quick, easy way to manage your health appointments.
"We're hoping this campaign will help to change some behaviours around wasting GP appointments - if you don't need it, please do try to cancel it."