Missed appointments cost NHS millions of pounds

Whiston Hospital where around 36,000 appointments were missed last year
Whiston Hospital where around 36,000 appointments were missed last year

Thoughtless patients are costing St Helens’ hospitals millions of pounds by booking appointments and then not bothering to turn up.

More than 35,000 pre-booked appointments arranged with St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Trust NHS Foundation Trust did not go ahead in the past 12 months, shocking figures obtained by the St Helens Reporter reveal.

Patients supposed to be attending St Helens and Whiston hospitals did not turn up for a staggering 36,641 appointments.

Local hospital chiefs have refused to say how much they estimate missed appointments costs the cash-strapped trust financially but it is thought to run into millions of pounds.

In neighbouring Wigan, where just under 40,000 appointments were missed, health chiefs say patients not showing up cost the borough’s hospitals nearly £4m last year - although the actual financial penalty could be lower as on some occasions staff are able to fill wasted appointments at the last minute, meaning the organisation incurs no loss.

Nationally, NHS bosses say missed appointments are a huge issue at a time when the health service is facing enormous cuts to its budget, and they have adopted a number of measures to try and ensure patients do not waste health professionals’ time.

A local hospital trust spokeswoman said: “The trust works in close partnership with primary care colleagues to offer patients the choice of appointment date and time convenient to them. Out-patient clinics are planned anticipating that a small number of patients may choose to miss their appointments.

“This can present problems in ensuring that clinics are run efficiently. The trust has around the same percentage of patients who fail to attend appointments as the national figures.”

The number of missed appointments represents around 10 per cent of the total number of pre-booked appointments. Hospital staff make between 35,000 and 40,000 appointments every month.

Last year, May, June and August were the worst months for missed appointments.

Around 11 per cent of patients fail to attend their outpatient appointments nationally, which hospitals say means millions of sick and unwell people experience delays in getting the treatments they need.

Nationally, some hospitals are in the process of introducing a new automated voice reminder service which calls mobile or landline numbers between seven and 10 days before an appointment, allowing patients to confirm their appointment or request that it be cancelled or altered.