Study highlights risk of missed mental health appointments

Mental health patients who repeatedly miss GP appointments are at a greater risk of death than those who regulatory attend meetings, a study has revealed.

The report, published by the University of Glasgow, suggests that NHS practices and other services within the UK should consider how to best engage with patients who fail to attend scheduled appointments.

The researchers found that the more long-term conditions a person had, the more likely they were to miss appointments. However, patients with mental health conditions were more likely to miss appointments than those with physical ailments.

It was found that one to three mental health conditions were associated with a 30 per cent higher risk of missing appointments compared to those who had no long-term conditions, while patients with four or more mental health conditions were twice as likely to miss appointments.

This is worrying, as patients who miss two or more GP appointments within the space of a year are eight times more likely to die in the subsequent 18 months than those who miss none.

The report suspects that this may be due to the fact that many of those who missed appointments – around 32.1 per cent – were addicted to alcohol or drugs, suggesting a possible cause of death.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Ross McQueenie, author of the study, said: “Patients with only mental health conditions who missed more than two appointments per year had an eightfold increase in all-cause mortality compared with those who missed no appointments. Patients diagnosed with long-term mental health problems, who died during the follow-up period, were more likely to die prematurely, often as a result of external factors such as suicide, rather than of natural causes.”

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, added: “People miss appointments for a range of reasons – but this study highlights why it’s more important to show compassion to people who fail to attend, rather than punishing them.

“For some, life gets in the way and they forget but others might not turn up precisely because of their health issue.

“We need systems in place to better accommodate for these situations and the starting point is having more mental health therapists based in primary care, where the majority of mental health issues are identified and managed.”

Share this article:Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn