Ipswich: £1million saved in a year at Ipswich Hospital thanks to crackdown on missed appointments

Ipswich Hospital has reduced the number of missed appointments

Ipswich Hospital has reduced the number of missed appointments

A SIMPLE appointment reminder system has saved Ipswich Hospital more than £1million in ONE year, The Star can reveal.

The revelation comes after figures revealed the NHS was forced to fork out millions of pounds because 6.7million patients did not bother turning up to their hospital appointments last year.

But at the hospital a new initiative has reduced the bill for missed appointments from £3m in 2010/11 to £2m in 2011/12.

The east of England had one of the lowest rates of appointments recorded as ‘did not attend’ or DNAs – recording just 7.2% last year, compared to a national average of 8.5%. At Ipswich Hospital that figure was 6.8%.

The highest rate in the east was recorded at Luton and Dunstable Hospital (11.4%) while the lowest was Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire (4.6%).

Hospital spokeswoman Jan Ingle said the aim was to make the system more patient-friendly.

“What we wanted to do was make it as easy as possible for patients to attend their appointments,” she said. “Key to that was jointly agreeing appointment times with patients, rather than just sending them an appointment date in the post.

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“But it was also about making it easy for patients to cancel their appointments.”

The system works by calling patients to remind them of the date, time and location of their appointment seven days before they are due to visit the hospital. It is then followed up by a text message two days prior to the appointment.

During a trial in the hospital’s ophthalmology, diabetes and musculoskeletal physiotherapy departments in December 2011, the scheme saw missed appointments fall from 11% to 5%.

The reminder system enables staff to offer unwanted appointments to other patients on the waiting list.

Mrs Ingle added: “We are really grateful to our community for responding so well to the changes.

“It is helping us save thousands and thousands of pounds every month.

“We have received great feedback from patients, it has proved really popular.

“The message is we can’t treat an empty chair. A missed appointment, forgotten or ignored by one patient, would be so valuable to someone else.”

In 2011/12, 31,038 appointments were wasted at Ipswich Hospital alone because the patient did not attend, costing £2m. That compares with 32,774 DNAs in 2010/11 (7.2% of all appointments) – costing the trust £3m.