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Missed appointments - every one counts

Why is it that people keep appointments with their vet, their hairdresser and their personal trainer but not with their GP? And what can we do to change this? These are two questions we’ve been helping Pfizer get to the bottom of.

Around 19 million hospital and GP appointments are missed every year. Each time a patient fails to show up it wastes a healthcare professional’s time, it costs the NHS money – an estimated £950 million over the course of the year - and it delays access to healthcare for other people. It’s in no one’s interest, particularly at a time when the NHS needs to ensure that limited resources are being used as efficiently as possible.

Pfizer’s ambition is to work in partnership with the NHS and other healthcare organisations on social initiatives that support its vision of “Working Together for Britain’s National Health”, so missed appointments felt like a great place to start. We kicked off the campaign in 2014 with some comprehensive behavioural research to really unpick exactly why patients behave the way they do.

Our analysis led us to four themes we wanted to investigate further and we are now helping Pfizer to develop and run pilots in each of these areas. From the use of behavioural techniques to encourage attendance in primary care and the optimisation of appointment reminders in secondary care, to looking at how we can overcome the high levels of DNAs (did not attends) for outpatient appointments at hospices and the general public’s reluctance to attend screening appointments, the aim is to test practical approaches that we hope will make a real difference to the problem.

To learn more about the campaign, check out this recent article in Ethical Performance.