There is an evidence gap about whether levels of engagement with public services such as schools and health care affect people across the lifespan. Data on missed patient appointments from a nationally representative sample of Scottish general practices (GP) (2013–2016) were probabilistically linked to secondary school pupil data. We tested whether school attendance, exclusions (2007–2011) or lower educational attainment (2007–2016) was associated with an increased risk of missing general practice appointments.
School attendance data were classified into quartiles of possible days attended for years we had data. School exclusions were derived as a categorical variable of ‘ever excluded’. Attainment data were categorised via the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level 3 or 6; a cumulative measure of attainment on leaving school. The associations between school attendance, exclusions and attainment and risk of missing medical appointments were investigated using negative binomial models, offset by number of GP appointments made and controlling for potential confounders.
112,534 patients (all aged under 35) had GP appointment and retrospective school attendance and exclusion data, and a subset of 66,967 also had attainment data available. Patients who had lower attendance, had been excluded from school or had lower educational attainment had an increased risk of missing GP appointments (all rate ratios > 1.40).
This study provides the first evidence from a population-representative sample in a high-income country that increased numbers of missed appointments in health care are associated with reduced school attendance, higher levels of school exclusion and lower educational attainment. Insights into the epidemiology of missingness across public services can support future research, policy and practice that aim to improve healthcare, health outcomes and engagement in services.