Should patients be charged for missed GP appointments?

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With millions across the UK calling for a pay rise for our health heroes, maybe it’s also time we start charging serial offenders abusing one of the fundamental parts of our NHS, the GP appointments system. Our NHS knows no bounds and rightly so; the vast majority of people are proud of our National Health Service, yet despite its well-regard it is not being treated as well as it should.

To my surprise, last night while scrolling through Twitter and being led, as usual, down the rabbit hole of the online world, I came across a statistic. Not only was it shocking, but I was further flurried by the fact that not one of my fellow politically enthused friends were aware of it. According to NHS England, 15 million GP appointments are wasted every year. These vital slots of our beloved Health Service are costing millions, due to tactless laziness and lack of consideration for our supposed national treasure. Equating to 1 in 20 GP appointments being missed, it begs the question, did we really appreciate our NHS before this crisis?

Of course, from time to time, other more important things come into fruition and so previously booked appointments can’t be attended. This, however, can be resolved by a simple cancellation over the phone and the rebooking of a new appointment. But, the serious and costly problem prevails when patients fail to follow through with a cancellation, not making the surgery aware of their non-attendance, and thus taking up an appointment that could have otherwise been booked by a different patient. And the costs are not small either. With each appointment costing an average of £30, over £216 million pounds are wasted every year. Not to mention, this £216 million pounds lost could pay for the annual salary of 2,325 full time GPs or provide 58,320 hip replacement operations.

It seems now the only method left to address this continual abuse of the system is the introduction of a penalty for habitual offenders who time and time again take our NHS for granted. So while we all clap outside our houses every Thursday at 8pm, do we actually value our Health Service and its workers in times of business as usual?

* Alice Lilley is a 16 year old A Level student, living in London and currently studying English Literature, French and Politics