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Missed appointments cost NHS millions

PUBLISHED: 08:00 13 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:29 06 July 2010

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston has the highest level of no-shows

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston has the highest level of no-shows

Sarah Brealey

People who fail to show up for hospital appointments are costing the NHS millions in Norfolk alone.

Hospitals last night pleaded with patients to make an effort to turn up, and help keep waiting times down for other patients.

Sarah Brealey

People who fail to show up for hospital appointments are costing the NHS millions in Norfolk alone.

Hospitals last night pleaded with patients to make an effort to turn up, and help keep waiting times down for other patients.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital says it has done everything it can do try to cut down on missed appointments, having been one of the first hospitals in the country to introduce text message reminders.

The James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, which has the highest level of no-shows of Norfolk's hospitals, is now considering extra measures, including text message reminders.

And the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, takes patients off the waiting list if they miss two appointments in a row.

But the level of missed appointments has improved little in recent years, despite extra efforts like telephone calls and text messages. The no-shows are also despite the new Choose and Book system, which is supposed to let patients book a slot at a convenient time to them.

At the N&N, there are 31,000 missed appointments a year, 6pc of all appointments. Although it impossible to calculate the precise cost, estimates are that each missed appointment means around £100 in admin time and lost revenue, adding up to around £3m a year.

The JPH has 21,000 missed appointments a year - 9pc of all appointments. Based on £100 per missed appointment, this is costing £2.1m a year.

At the QEH, 7pc of all appointments are missed - 17,297 a year. The hospital estimates that the missed appointments would account for about £2m in income.

A spokesman for the N&N said: “We would strongly urge patients to tell us if they cannot make an appointment as it would mean that other patients could be seen instead, cutting down waiting times and making our service far more efficient.”

The N&N, like other hospitals, does overbook clinics in expectation that some people will not turn up, but this in turn makes it harder to manage waiting times.

The JPH says it uses phone reminders in departments where there have been problems in the past, which has helped reduce no-shows in those areas.

Nick Coveney, director of nursing and patient services at the JPH, said: “We would urge anyone who cannot attend their appointment to let us know as early as possible so that we can arrange a suitable alternative. This also allows us to offer their original appointment to another patient which, in turn, helps keep our waiting lists as short as possible.”

Noel Scanlon, deputy chief executive and chief nurse at the QEH, said reducing missed appointments was a priority. “A missed appointment is a missed opportunity for another patient to receive treatment they often urgently require.”

Michael Summers, vice-chairman of the Patients' Association, said: “It's unforgiveable really. It doesn't take much to lift a phone.”


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