NEW figures show that an initiative to tackle the problem of wasted GP appointments has been a success.

The service by NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group allows GP practices to communicate with patients by text. It looks set to reduce wasted appointments by 19,500 appointments per year.

Patients registered at Bolton GP practices have been receiving appointment reminders by text since the summer.

Unwanted appointments can be cancelled quickly and easily by simply replying to the text. The new service was introduced to reduce waste and improve availability by reminding people to attend, cancel, or change their GP appointment. It has also been used to invite eligible patients to book in for their flu vaccination or NHS Health Check.

Dr Wirin Bhatiani, chairman of NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Bolton people tell us that they often struggle to get an appointment at their GP practice and find it difficult to get in touch when they need to. This initiative is all about reducing the number of wasted appointments, helping practices to work more efficiently, and of course providing greater convenience for patients. I encourage everyone to cancel appointments if they are no longer needed, whether they are booked with a GP practice or another health service.”

A partnership between the CCG and digital health innovation company iPLATO Healthcare, has been working with Bolton GP practices to roll out this new system.

The privacy of patients and protection of confidential data is a key consideration throughout the development of this programme. Patients can opt out at any time by notifying their GP, or any other member of staff at their GP practice.