Patients in the North East missed more than 230,000 hospital appointments in a year – costing the NHS as much as £24m.
In 2012/2013, patients failed to show for more than 600 appointments per day. The figures were for six hospital trusts in the region, including Gateshead, City Hospitals Sunderland, Newcastle, South Tyneside, Northumbria and County Durham and Darlington.
A total of 239,860 appointments were missed, including both initial and follow-up assessments for outpatients and arranged elective inpatient admissions. Missed appointments, also known as did not attends (DNAs), can have an impact on waiting lists as well as the financial cost of wasting staff time. Health bosses believe someone not turning up can cost between £100 and £110 for each appointment.
Some DNAs can be legitimate, with patients either not getting contacted beforehand, have moved away, or have had to deal with an unexpected emergency.
However, others do not turn up because they feel they no longer need an appointment and do not tell the hospital, or forgot they had an appointment. Jon Connolly, director of finance and information at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Gateshead, said: “Missed appointments cost the whole NHS a lot of money. If everybody turned up to their appointments, or cancelled ahead of time, we would be able to see a lot more patients with fewer resources in a shorter space of time.
“I would strongly urge anybody who thinks they may be unable to make either an outpatient or inpatient appointment to give us a call. You won’t be penalised for calling to cancel, and you’ll find the NHS are more flexible than you think for rearranging appointments at a date and time that suits you better.”
Chris Piercy, director of nursing for NHS Newcastle Gateshead Alliance, said: “Missed appointments are a major issue as they impact on waiting times and the patient who has not attended does not receive the treatment they need.
“If a patient cannot make their original appointment we urge them to inform the hospital or GP practice to reschedule. This frees up the time to provide treatment to other patients.” Many hospital trusts now have an appointment reminder service, where the patient is called a few days prior to the appointment.