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Cost of missed appointments at Norfolk hospitals soars to £10m

PUBLISHED: 09:56 13 October 2014 | UPDATED: 09:56 13 October 2014

The cost of

The cost of "did not attend" outpatient appointments rose to £10m at Norfolk's three acute hospitals last year.

The cost of patients missing appointments at Norfolk’s three main hospitals soared to an estimated £10m last year, according to new figures.

New telephone reminder system

The cost of missed appointments at the West Suffolk Hospital rose from £2m in 2012/13 to £2.2m in 2013/14.

However, officials from the Bury St Edmunds-based trust said the introduction of a telephone reminder system in April had already significantly reduced the number of patients who have not turned up for outpatient appointments.

Between 348 and 773 extra patients each month are attending for appointments since the introduction of the system, which telephones people two weeks in advance to remind them when they are due at the hospital. Patients then receive a further text message reminder two days before their appointment.

The reminders give anyone who cannot attend the chance to let the hospital know by calling or selecting from the options on the automated message, in turn allowing West Suffolk to offer the slot to someone else.

The new initiative has reduced the percentage of did not attends from 5.97pc for the first four months of 2013 to 4.18pc over the same period in 2014.

Debs Wakefield, transformation manager at the hospital, said: “We are really pleased with the impact this new system has had on further reducing the number of missed appointments at West Suffolk Hospital.

“As well as reminding patients who have forgotten their appointment, it’s giving us the opportunity to offer unwanted slots to other people, which helps reduce waiting lists and makes sure everyone receives prompt treatment. We also had some great feedback from patients about the system, with many finding it a really useful tool.

“We can’t treat an empty chair, so urge anyone who cannot come to their appointment to get in touch with us so that we can arrange a suitable alternative.”

Hospital chiefs pledged to look at ways to reduce the number of cancellations and urged people to tell them if they could not make scheduled outpatient appointments.

Figures released under a Freedom of Information request revealed that in 2013/14, there were more than 70,000 did not attend (DNA) cases at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn.

And with every missed appointment costing the NHS around £150, the estimated cost of patients missing outpatient appointments at the three acute hospitals in Norfolk rose from £9m in 2012/13 to £10m in the last financial year.

The national average of DNAs currently stands at more than 8pc.

At the N&N, almost 6pc of appointments were missed, which cost the hospital £5.7m last year. It comes after bosses from the Colney hospital warned last month that the NHS trust was expecting an £11m budget shortfall next year, as a result of an increase in A&E admissions and attendances.

A spokesman for the hospital added that the percentage of missed appointments had slightly reduced last year, compared with 2012/13.

“There are a several reasons why a patient may not attend a hospital appointment, for example, a patient may feel better and choose not to attend, or a patient may forget their appointment time. In order to reduce the number of DNAs, we send patients SMS text messages to remind them of their appointment time and how to rebook if needed. In some clinics where patients attend regularly, we ask patients to contact us to book an appointment at a time that suits them. Like many healthcare providers, we do also overbook some clinics in anticipation of a small number of DNAs.”

At the JPH, the number of DNA cases reduced slightly from 2012/13 to 2013/14.

Sue Watkinson, interim director or operations at the Gorleston hospital, said a text system for certain patient clinics had been introduced to reduce the number of missed appointments.

“Patients not attending their appointments mean that we could have treated someone else. We do appreciate that sometimes emergency situations arise, so we would request that our patients let us know as soon as possible if they need to cancel.”

“There are many reasons why patients DNA, sometimes it is due to an unforeseen emergency and some of our patients just simply do not keep their appointments. On rare occasions the hospital makes an administrative error and, if so, we apologise and make a suitable alternative at the patient’s convenience,” she said.

The cost of DNAs at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital rose from £1.45m in 2012/13 to £2.38m in the last financial year.

No one was available to comment from the King’s Lynn hospital.

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