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

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

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

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

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.

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'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.