PATIENTS in the Northern and Yorkshire region miss more appointments with their GP than in any other part of the country, it has been revealed.
On average, each family doctor in the region has 492 appointments a year missed by patients.
And more than 60% of GPs in the region are in favour of charging patients for failing to show up as scheduled.
A survey among 107 GP practices in the region found that 61.5% were in favour or charging patients for not attending.
Just under half of GPs in the region - 49% - wanted a charge of under £10 and 12.5% wanted to see a payment of over £10.
Six out of 10 - 61% - of practices in the region felt that reminders by telephone, mobile phone or e-mail, could help improve the situation.
Nationally, the number of missed GP appointments is 12.6m and wastes an estimated £250m of NHS cash.
Practice nurses also suffer, with 4.4m missed appointments nationally every year.
Dr Simon Fradd, chairman of Developing Patient Partnerships, a health education charity which commissioned the survey, said: "The cost of a GP appointment is at least £18, so the missing 12.6m appointments cost the equivalent of £250m a year.
"This perhaps explains why 68% of the practices in the national survey support charging for missed appointments."
But he added: "Before resorting to this, I would like to see the NHS investing in potential solutions, such as the patient reminder system."
In the South-East, GPs suffered from an average 232 missed appointments a year - less than half the average for Northern and Yorkshire.
Nationally, 649 practices responded to the survey by DPP and the Institute of Healthcare Management.
Terry Dutchburn, deputy director of modernisation for the GP-led Huddersfield Central and South primary care trusts, said: "Missed appointments are a problem here, as they are across the country.
"People do not always realise that by not attending they could be putting their health at risk, or that someone else could use their appointment time.
"We are working hard in Huddersfield to make sure people can see their doctor as quickly as possible when they need to.
"I would urge everyone to help keep waiting times down by letting their surgery know as soon as possible if they cannot attend," said Mr Dutchburn.
"The PCTs are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to the care and treatment they need, in the right place at the right time.
"Any proposals to charge patients for missed appointments would need to be considered very carefully, to make sure they did not deter people from seeking help and advice.
"The PCTs have no plans to consider introducing charges for missed appointments," he added.
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