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Suffolk: £18 million wasted on missed hospital appointments

09:00 26 December 2012

Millions of pounds have been wasted by patients missing appointments at West Suffolk Hospital.

Millions of pounds have been wasted by patients missing appointments at West Suffolk Hospital.

Archant

NEARLY £18 million has been wasted by missed appointments at Suffolk hospitals, new figures reveal.

Figures from 2009 until October this year show that 184,947 appointments were rendered redundant by patients not attending at a cost of £17.6m.

At Ipswich Hospital alone the missed appointments cost them £10.2m.

The hospital in Heath Road launched a telephone and text reminder service a year ago, which bosses say has helped reduce the number of redundant appointments.

Despite the high numbers involved, the hospital has one of the lowest missed appointment rates in the country - at just 5%.

Patrick Harrington, telephone reminder service project lead, said: “Not only does this reminder system help patients who have forgotten their appointment, but it makes it easier for patients to cancel if they no longer want the appointment, or to rebook if they cannot make the date available.

“We need everyone to understand that we cannot treat an empty chair. The slot forgotten or ignored by one patient would be so valuable to someone else.”

At West Suffolk Hospital 67,046 appointments have been missed in the three-and-a-half period. The hospital estimates that each appointment costs about £110, which amounts to £7,375,060.

Debs Wakefield, outpatients manager at West Suffolk Hospital, said the hospital is launching a telephone reminder next year, where patients can use the buttons on their keypad to confirm or rearrange.

She added: “We are also investigating the possibility of introducing text messages alerts as an extra reminder in the future.”

The figures have been released following a Freedom of Information request by the East Anglian Daily Times.

Dr Daniel Poulter MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health said patients needed to take responsibility for their own health.

He said: “Patients need to realise that missing appointments may mean that other sick and ill people are not receiving care as a result.

“I know that the new Chief Executive Nigel Beverley is working to reduce the numbers of missed appointments at Ipswich Hospital by raising awareness amongst staff and patients of the financial and human cost to NHS patients of missed appointments.”

At Colchester General 126,609 appointments were missed, but the hospital were unable to give an approximate cost.

A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said: “It is important that members of the public appreciate that they too have responsibilities, like not wasting precious NHS resources.

“As The NHS Constitution states: ‘You should keep appointments, or cancel within reasonable time. Receiving treatment within the maximum waiting times may be compromised unless you do.”

4 comments

  • Oh for heavens sake, not this old chestnut again. Hospitals expect a proportion of no-shows and overbook the clinics accordingly. This is based on 5 years working in admin in an acute trust in the Midlands.

    Report this comment

    Ex-IP17

    Wednesday, December 26, 2012

  • As a patient of WSGH, I fully support the idea but using the "telephone message" has it's problems. If you are a pay as you go mobile phone user and the call goes onto your voice mail, you need credit to retrieve the message whereas a text message does not. If a BT (or similar) landline is used and the message goes onto your 1471 service, it can get missed. Before now, I have gone to use my telephone and heard the distinctive tone of a voicemail notification and wondered how long that has been on there. With "most people" having a mobile phone these days, the text message system would seem to be the most efficient.

    Report this comment

    The original Victor Meldrew

    Wednesday, December 26, 2012

  • No doubt the very ones who are selfish enough not to bother turning up are the very same who complain if they have to wait for an appointment. Dentists charge for missed appointments, the hospital should do the same.

    Report this comment

    MZH

    Wednesday, December 26, 2012

  • Maybe a 10.00p for a missed appointment without ''good cause'' would make people think about not turning up

    Report this comment

    g54gt54y54

    Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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