AS MUCH as 4,800 hours of NHS time was wasted in Andover last year as 7,200 surgery appointments were missed in the town, the Advertiser has learned.

According to data provided by the NHS West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), 7,200 GP and nurse appointments were lost across the Shepherds Spring Medical Centre, Charlton Hill Surgery, St Mary’s Surgery and Adelaide Medical Centre, as a result of people not turning up for their slot.

This is an average of 150 per practice per month.

In addition to this, Andover Health Centre, which was not included in the statistics, had 119 people not attend appointments just last month.

An Andover Health Centre spokesperson said: “I think it is the same across most of the surgeries.

“We are here to do a good service and we do not want people to miss appointments. We advertise the statistics on the call boards just to make people aware how many lost appointments we have a month.

“We do also offer text messages when people book and [they] get a reminder [on] the day of [the appointment] and we do write to people who do not attend. Most people are genuine but we do draw it to people’s attention as there are quite long waiting times for appointments as well and it doesn’t help.

“If people ring on the day we can still use the appointment slots, we don’t have the resources to check with everyone before they come in to see if they are still coming.”

West Hampshire CCG chair and GP Dr Sarah Schofield said: “Sadly I think it is normal, there is a small group of people who do forget, there is a small group of people who do not care but we do not make it easy for people to cancel as people can’t always hang on the phone, sitting for half an hour waiting for the practice to pick up.

“I think some of the traditional methods of telephoning in is a problem and going digital allows for more opportunity for people to find ways to get in touch with their practices.”

Dr Schofield added pharmacists are a good first point of call to signpost patients and patient participation groups are important to campaign for making the health service more available online and raise awareness of missed appointments.

Dr Schofield said: “It is a complete waste of other patients time so I think having more of a campaign about missed appointments and encouraging patient participation groups to say we all have a responsibility here for NHS costs.

“It is a waste of public money and appointments which could be given to other people who might be seriously sick, or who potentially have cancer.

“The public really value the NHS and it is a shame for all of us if people are casual about something more and more difficult to access.”