“Ghost clinics should not be run as standard or default practice,” AOP advises members

Members are told to contact the association if practices do not take appropriate steps to address concerns

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The AOP has updated its advice to members, confirming that it does not endorse the use of additional appointments, known as ‘ghost clinics.’

Though acknowledging that a business might benefit from safely seeing as many patients as possible, the AOP emphasised that “This is not the same as saying it is acceptable.”

The association has emphasised that it does not endorse a blanket policy of mandating that ghost clinics must be in use, without consideration of the historic no-show rate or appointment availability in a particular practice.

The AOP clarified its position following earlier guidance, which had acknowledged that the use of additional appointments “may make good business sense” to practices.

A statement on the AOP website reads that the association has now “been provided with evidence that at least one large chain is applying a blanket policy of mandating that ghost clinics must be in use, regardless of the historic no-show rate or appointment availability in a particular practice.”

The statement adds: “Clearly this isn't acceptable and as such we believe that it is necessary to refine our advice to remove any ambiguity."

AOP Guidance for practice owners and managers states that ghost clinics should not be run as standard or default practice, and that staff should not be expected to miss all or part of their breaks or lunch, or work longer hours, to see additional patients.

It also emphasises that more patients should not be booked into unstaffed slots than is suggested sensible by the historic no show rate in the particular practice.
Practices should be prepared to rebook ghost clinic patients if all standard clinic patients attend, the AOP says.

Advising locums and employees, the AOP offers a reminder that practitioners are within their rights to refuse to see additional patients outside their standard working hours if there is not a free appointment slot during those hours.

Employees and locums should also be aware that booking additional patients where there is not capacity may place them in breach of the following GOC Standards:

• 1.1.10 Ensures that any operational or commercial targets do not have an adverse effect on patient care

• 3.1.4 Allows staff sufficient time, so far as possible, to accommodate patients’ individual needs within the provision of care

If practitioners are concerned about the issue of extra appointments being booked in their practice, and if practice owners or managers don’t take steps to rectify the issue, members are being encouraged to contact the AOP. The association will be able to provide support, including raising the issue with the practice, and helping the employee to take the matter further if necessary.

The full statement and updated advice can be read in full on the AOP website.