£4 Million Pound Bill For Missed Appointments

Missed appointments are costing NHS Forth Valley more than 4 million pounds a year.

In the past year the number of ‘did not attends’ was around 11 per cent, with more than 20,000 people failing to turn up for appointments at consultant-led outpatient clinics. A further 5,500 did not attend nurse-led outpatient clinics, and nearly 1,000 missed their appointment with allied health professionals such as physiotherapists.

The figures have been described as ‘concerning’ by Medical Director Miss Tracey Gillies. She said: “I appreciate that sometimes there are genuine reasons for not keeping an appointment but people should let us know. This would give us the chance to reschedule and allow someone else to attend. It’s important to remember that a missed appointment may also lead to you being referred back to your GP, potentially delaying your treatment.”

One department where missed appointments have been particularly high is radiology ultrasound where, over the past month, 170 patients failed to turn up at Falkirk and Stirling community hospitals. This took the ultrasound ‘did not attend’ rate to 20%.

Sandra Robertson, NHS Forth Valley Radiology Department Manager, said:  “Missed appointments create delays for other patients and add to our overall waiting list.  They also generate additional work for administrative staff who have to rebook patients and there are additional costs associated with sending out further appointment letters.  Many patients who contact the Department to confirm they will attend their scans still fail to turn up. It’s important to raise public awareness to help people realise the impact this is having on local health services.”

The average cost per patient for a missed appointment at a doctor-led outpatient clinic is £177, £97 for a nurse led clinic and around £63 for treatment by an allied health professional.

As well as raising public awareness NHS Forth Valley is also trialling the use of a new patient reminder service for outpatient appointments in gastroenterology, neurology and dermatology. It involves patients receiving a recorded phone message seven days beforehand which asks them to either confirm they can attend, request a change of appointment or speak to a member of staff.

NHS Forth Valley Health Records Services Manager Emma Hamilton said: “The introduction of this new reminder system should help reduce the number of people who fail to show up for an appointment because they have either forgotten or they can no longer attend.  Enabling patients to pick a date and appointment time which suits them will also help especially for those with specific work commitments, holidays or transport issues.”

A text message reminder will also be sent to mobile phone numbers a few days before the appointment date as an additional reminder and a local telephone number will appear on caller display (01324 566249) to help avoid any potential confusion with unwanted sales or marketing calls.

If the trial is successful, there are plan to roll out the telephone reminder system for all outpatient appointments at hospitals across Forth Valley. Staff are therefore urging patients to ensure they provide up-to-date contact details, including a mobile phone or daytime telephone number.