Following a successful pilot and funding of the MJog Smart service, Sunderland CCG are reaping the benefits by reducing missed appointments across the city (helping to reduce the cost of DNAs to General Practice by up to £1 million) while increasing patient access (cancelling unwanted appointments and online prescription ordering).
While over £1 million has been lost in the past through missed appointments, the introduction of MJog Smart across sites in Sunderland CCG mean that more patients have the ability to notify their practice, for free, if they are not able to make an appointment. Jackie Spencer, head of general practice commissioning at NHS Sunderland CCG said “We understand that people have busy lives, but every one of these is a slot that could have been used by someone else. With health services facing high levels of demand in winter, this is one way we can all help to protect the NHS. We are supporting practices across Sunderland to reduce the number of patients failing to attend appointments.”
As part of a drive to ensure people either attend or call up to cancel, an app is being used to prompt people about their appointments and give then a quick way to let their surgery know if they cannot get to it. Ms Spencer added: “MJog [Messenger] is available for patients to download, which will confirm when any GP appointments have been booked as well as sending reminders, with the option to cancel if they are no longer needed.” Patients can also book and cancel appointments online or through the Patient Access app. “This has helped to reduce the number of missed appointments by 774 in October and November compared to the same time last year. This is equivalent to around £20,000 worth of appointments. With health services facing high levels of demand in winter, this is one way we can all help to protect the NHS.”
The issue of appointments has also been taken up by Healthwatch Sunderland after the wait to get an appointment at a GP surgery became the most frequent piece of negative feedback from people to its engagement team and group of volunteers. Practice Managers across the city were asked to report how many appointments had been missed during a month-long period, not just with GPs, but other medical staff. It received 31 responses from 49 centres, stating the number of no shows for appointments with GPs stood at 1,644, 286 for nurse practitioners, 1,095 practice nurse appointments and 627 practice nurse sessions. A spokeswoman for Healthwatch Sunderland said: “We realise that GPs and other practitioners will use their time which would have normally been spent with those patients who miss appointments to do a range of other jobs, such as referrals to consultants. With over 3,500 patients waiting for a slot that works out to 5 appointments a day in each of the practices.” The group has voiced its support for the MJog [Messenger] app.
Millfield Medical Centre in Hylton Road, Sunderland, manages 13,200 residents and on an average month deals with 3,500 appointments. Of those, up to 200 are missed by patients who have booked to see one of its nine GPs, while around the same number again fail to attend their appointment with its team of five nurses. In total up to 400 patients a month fail to turn up after booking a slot.
The medical centre is amongst the sites within the CCG who use the MJog [Messenger] app, which it says is helping to keep patients on track and give them another avenue to cancel, should they no longer need to see a healthcare professional or not able to make the time and date. The centre tries to ensure those who have turned up ready to be seen are then called in as soon as possible, as well as reorganise the diary and free up space for more patients if people call up to cancel. Its patient group also discusses the issue on a regular basis as it works to reduce the problem.
Practice Business Manager Paul Weddle said: “With between 180 and 200 missed appointments a month, that’s a significant chunk of our appointments and at 10 minutes each, that period of time adds up to a good few hours. With 10 missed appointments a day, that’s time the surgery misses because a GP is waiting for their patient. The cost of a GP appointment is £22.60, so if you add how much that costs the NHS with 200 missed appointments, that’s a lot of money. It’s really about educating patients that if they can’t make it, they can get in touch to cancel and even if we have half an hour’s notice, then that’s what we need to be able to open that appointment back up to other patients.”