Dr. David Ellis of the University of Bath School of Management has received a Research Paper of the Year award from the Royal College of General Practitioners for a study demonstrating links between missed appointments and early death. Those with long-term mental health conditions are at particular risk.

Ellis, formerly of Lancaster University, co-authored the research – ‘Morbidity, mortality and missed appointments in healthcare: a national retrospective data linkage study’ with Dr. Ross McQueenie from the University of Glasgow and colleagues from the University of Aberdeen. The study was published in January 2019.

“I am delighted that the study and its authors have been recognised by the Royal College of GPs. We published the research last year but the findings have become all the more important in light of reduced demand for routine care as a result of COVID-19. Healthcare service provision has, in response, had to consider what remote consulting means for patient care when poverty and the digital divide are very much alive. Missingness in healthcare often focuses on what it means for a service however, our work suggests that missed appointments has serious impacts at the patient level,” Ellis said.

The study examined over half a million patients’ appointment histories over a three-year period and found that patients with a greater number of long-term health conditions had an increased risk of missing general practice appointments and that these same patients were also at substantially greater risk of death within the following year.

Additionally, patients with long-term conditions who missed two or more appointments per year had a threefold increase in all-cause mortality compared to those who missed no appointments. And patients with mental-health conditions only who missed more than two appointments per year had an eight times greater risk of death during the follow-up period compared with those who missed no appointment.

The study won the Royal College of General Practioners’ 2019 Category 2: Health Service Research award. The award cited authors Ross McQueenie, David Ellis, Alex McConnachie, Philip Wilson and Andrea E. Williamson.

The Royal College of General Practitioners is the professional body for general medical practitioners in the United Kingdom. The RCGP represents and supports GPs on key issues including licensing, education, training, research and clinical standards. The RCGP was founded in 1952 in London, England and is a registered charity.