The total number of missed GP appointments

27 January 2017
What was claimed

14 million GP appointments are missed every year.

Our verdict

That’s one estimate, based on a survey of 500 GPs in 2015. No-one routinely collects information about the total number of missed GP appointments in England.

“There were some statistics I saw in the Times today that there are 14 million missed doctor’s appointments every year.”

Geoff Norcott, 26 January 2017

Information on the number of missed GP appointments isn’t gathered centrally by the NHS or the government. The best information we have seems to come from surveys.

The estimate Mr Norcott quoted matches a survey of 500 GPs in 2015, taken by GP Online. We’ve asked the magazine for some more detail on how that survey was carried out.

We’ve seen similar figures quoted elsewhere. About three years ago, NHS England said that more than 12 million GP appointments are missed each year in the UK. We’ve asked NHS England where these figures came from and whether they’ve published more up-to-date estimates since then.

And we don’t know exactly what this represents as a proportion of GP attendances either.

Perhaps surprisingly, no-one routinely collects figures about what goes on in GP surgeries across England.

The last recorded data on the number of appointments at GP surgeries found an estimated 300 million GP consultations a year took place in 2008, but no figures are available since then.

Some reports have used trends in earlier data to estimate how many GP appointments there are now. In 2014, one report estimated that there would be around 380 million consultations in GP surgeries in 2015/16.

Estimates like this come with some serious health warnings, but if that were roughly correct then 14 million missed appointments, as a ballpark figure, would represent something like 3-4% of all GP appointments in the year that GP Online carried out their survey.

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