OVER 11 million primary care appointments have been lost in the last year in Spain because patients do not attend scheduled appointments with their family doctor or pediatrician.
The El Pais newspaper has made the calculation on figures supplied by regional health authorities.
It says the actual total is higher because five regions(Asturias, the Canary Islands, Madrid, the Basque Country and Navarra) have not supplied data either because they do not monitor missed appointments or refused to provide information.
Patient absenteeism is just over 5% of the total number of medical consultations scheduled in health centres, which in 2021 amounted to 262.1 million, according to the Ministry of Heath.
“At the management level, these figures reveal an inefficiency of the system and is a waste of a very valuable asset for the health system: namely the time of the doctors,” said the vice-president of the Spanish Society of Health Directors, Jon Guajardo.
The differences in absenteeism between regions range from the lowest range from 2% through 10% in the highest which include Aragon and Murcia, though those are said to be approximate ‘internal estimates’.
Andalucia lost in 2022 3.3 million consultations(7.2% of its total) with the family doctor and 643,000 pediatric bookings(9.6% of the total).
The Valencian Community said no-shows for family medicine appointments stood at 3.8% of all bookings but no figures for pediatricians.
Percentages in the Balearic Islands were 4.7% for doctors and 4.6% for pediatricians.
A Barcelona family doctor, Roberto Mourelle, asked: “How is it possible that patients don’t come?”
“It’s somewhat contradictory that we are under immense pressure but people just skip their appointments as I try to find out why so I can better manage my time,” he added.
The Spanish Society of General and Family Physicians(SEMG) has come to some conclusions for a survey based on a small sample of patients.
They say that no-shows are dominated by two-thirds of males and people aged 65 and under- most prompted by work reasons.
SEMG president, Pilar Rodriquez Leto, said: “We need to work on better education to tell citizens that each person who does not show up should be aware that they are reducing another patient’s chances to see a doctor.”
“We also must simplify and make more accessible the procedures for bookings and cancellations, which are not always straight-forward.”