PATIENTS who miss hospital appointments have cost the NHS in Dorset more than £8 million pounds in the last three years, the Echo can reveal.
Around 70 patients fail to turn up for appointments each weekday at Dorset County Hospital.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show there has been a total of £8,171,526 lost in revenue since 2011 – and the cost is increasing each year.
And this figure doesn’t include the lost revenue from cancelled appointments, according to DCH NHS Foundation Trust.
Health bosses have hit out at those who miss their appointments due to the impact on wasted NHS resources and waiting lists where slots could have been offered to other patients.
Automated reminders are cutting the number of wasted appointments but hospitals say patients must do their bit by not wasting resources.
Thousands of Dorset residents fail to turn up to their appointments every year and the average cost of a new outpatient appointment is £206, with a follow up appointment standing at £119.
Last year the losses reached an all time high at £2,787,929 while the figures for 2011/12 stood at a lost £2,673,106 and for 2012/13 at £2,710,491. The highest losses were in orthodontics in both 2011/12 and 2012/13 with the second highest for each year being in ophthalmology.
In 2013/14 the highest losses were in audiology with the second highest losses coming from ophthalmology appointments.
The Trust is unable to provide information on revenue loss for cancellations as they do not have a system to accurately report on this. The information obtained by the Dorset Echo is on DNA (did not attend) or missed appointments in outpatients.
Dorset County Hospital’s director of operations Patricia Miller said: “Every year thousands of patients don’t turn up for their appointments, which has a huge impact in terms of wasted NHS resources. It also impacts on waiting lists as those appointment slots could have been offered to other patients.”
She added: “We are having a big push at the moment to get up-to-date contact details from patients so that we can keep in touch.
“We would particularly like people to provide their mobile phone numbers so we can send them a text reminding them about forthcoming appointments.
“Patient feedback about the text reminder service has been very positive and we have certainly seen a reduction in the number of missed appointments since rolling out the service.
“Many patients call us after receiving the text to say they had forgotten about it and would like to change it, which means that we can offer their appointment to another patient.”
While some clinics are not part of the text reminder service at the moment due to the sensitive nature of the appointment, plans are in place to find different ways of delivering the message.
All new appointment letters contain information on opting out of the system if people would rather not receive texts and there are posters in all outpatient areas and local GP surgeries explaining the service and the opt-out process.
Delays due to non-attenders
MISSED appointments can cause serious delays in treatments for other patients says Martyn Webster, regional manager of Healthwatch Dorset.
He said: “There can be many reasons for patients not attending appointments – they may be feeling better, they may have transport problems or be unable to get through to the clinic or department to change or cancel their appointment.
“Or in some cases they simply forget. But missed appointments can cause serious delays in treatment, not only for the patients who miss these appointments, but for other patients too.”
He added: “Services need to engage with their patients who don’t keep appointments to understand the reasons why, and to make sure that they are giving clear information, and are able to offer appointments which fit round people’s other commitments such as work or child care. “They also need to make the best use of a whole range of methods that have been shown to significantly reduce DNAs (do not attends). For example text reminders.
“If people are experiencing any particular difficulties with appointments systems we would like to hear from them on 0300 111 0102 or healthwatchdorset.co.uk”
PATIENTS are being urged by patient governors to try and ‘do better’.
Patient governor Andy Hutchings said: “It is very disturbing to hear of the amount of patients that are failing to turn up for their appointments.
“The trust is going out of its way to help patients with reminders about their appointments and patients must try to do better.”
Governor Michel Hooper-Immins said: “Missed appointments are a problem throughout the NHS. Many GP surgeries will tell a similar story.
“Dorset County Hospital has pioneered a system of text reminders which must have helped. “As a patient representative, I do urge patients to notify the hospital or surgery as soon as they know they can’t make an appointment. The time can then be reallocated to other patients.”