Special report: No show patients are costing the NHS millions
- Credit: Archant
Missed appointments at Queen’s and King George hospitals cost the NHS £8.8million a year and have a huge knock-on effect on patient care. But why do 225 patients every day fail to turn up, wasting £160 a time? EMMA YOULE reports
When pensioner Pamela Lucas was forced to miss a hospital appointment she faced the “saga” of sending her 91-year-old husband by bus to cancel, in an effort to avoid wasting NHS time and money.
The retired social services worker was determined to contact King George Hospital when she came down with shingles and was told by her doctor not to attend an appointment.
But it was so hard to get in touch that she eventually took the extreme step of asking her elderly husband to make the mile-long round trip to the hospital to cancel in person.
“I don’t have a computer but I did ring up the hospital and got pushed from pillar to post,” said the 84-year-old. “It became a saga.
“People moan about elderly people, but if they don’t give you a phone number to cancel what are you supposed to do?”
The NHS is treating the issue seriously as missed appointments cost the cash-strapped health service £225million every year and have a knock-on effect on patient care.
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A Post investigation has shown 82,000 appointments annually - or 225 every day - are missed at Queen’s and King George hospitals costing £8.8million every year.
The NHS trust in charge of the hospitals has appealed for the public’s help to tackle the issue.
Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, said: “We understand it’s sometimes unavoidable that people cannot make it on the day.
“But missed appointments are an avoidable waste of money and resources.
“The money we estimate is lost to this each year could be much better spent funding 80 consultants or 150 nurses.”
The trust says it has been “working hard” to improve administration systems and is using technology, such as text message reminders, to reduce non-attendance.
But the fault is not always the patient’s, says one Queen’s Hospital user.
Trading standards consultant Dave Quinton had an appointment to see a consultant about kidney stones just before Christmas.
The doctor cancelled and he has been forced to wait six months until June for another appointment to treat the painful condition.
“There is also the other side of the coin which is the admin chaos at hospitals,” said the 52-year-old.
“Whether it’s because they’ve sacked so many admin staff or some other reason I don’t know.”
Health chiefs say a vast number of appointments are wasted simply because people forget to attend.
This forces hospitals to overbook clinics and can lead to longer waiting times for other patients.
Barking and Dagenham Clinical Commissioning Group, which oversees healthcare in the borough, called on the public to take the issue seriously.
“Cancelling or rearranging an appointment not only frees the appointment for someone else, but it also saves your local NHS valuable money which could be reinvested in services,” said a spokeswoman.