Hospitals and patients urged to take action on missed appointments

Published on Tuesday, 28 August 2012 07:30
Posted by Scott Buckler

NHS hospitals should make more use of innovative solutions to tackle the number of people who miss their appointments, Health Minister Simon Burns has urged 

The NHS made good progress last year to reduce the number of missed outpatient appointments by over 250,000 against a background of rising demand. Over 800,000 more patients had an appointment last year.

However, during 2011/12 there were still around 5.5 million missed appointments in the NHS.   Overall the NHS carried out nearly 53 million outpatient appointments – meaning more than one in ten appointments were did-not-attends.

Health Minister Simon Burns, said:

"I'm pleased that the number of missed appointments in the NHS has gone down in the last year.  It is important that people realise that not turning up for their agreed appointments, means other patients care might be delayed and doctors and nurses time could be wasted, costing tax payers money.

"Today we are highlighting the number of missed appointments so people can see the impact this is having on their NHS.  Under the NHS Constitution we all have rights to treatment, such as being seen within 18 weeks.  Patients often have genuine reasons to miss an appointment, but it can have a big impact on the care we can offer to other patients.  It is important that the public understand we have responsibilities too, like not wasting precious NHS resources.

"I'm glad to see that the NHS is increasingly using simple ideas such as texting their patients before an appointment or seeing them via Skype.  These could have a dramatic impact and I want to see more hospitals making use of them."

The NHS Constitution makes clear that patients have the right to access NHS services, but patients have responsibilities too – it is important to keep appointments, or cancel within a reasonable time.  Otherwise, it can jeopardise patients starting treatment within 18 weeks of a referral.

Figures for 2011/12 show that more than 1.5 million of the missed appointments were for the first time outpatients needed to come to hospital and nearly four million missed appointments were to follow-up treatment or to check-up and monitor patients' progress.

Local NHS organisations make their own arrangements for preventing and dealing with missed appointments and successful initiatives such as text messages to remind patients are on the rise.

Some parts of the NHS have already begun to tackle this issue:

Newham University Hospital NHS Trust has started a pilot, where outpatient appointments happen via Skype for diabetes patients who don't need a physical examination.  This has caused missed appointments to fall by 11 percent because of the time saved in travelling and waiting and fewer patients attending A&E.  Feedback from patients has found that the quality of care is the same as face to face appointments. NHS North East has been running an innovative publicity campaign to remind patients of the impact that a missed appointment has on other patients and on the region's drive to meet the 18-week referral maximum waiting time.Choose and Book can reduce the number of missed appointments because patients have chosen the time, date and place of their appointment at their own convenience and so are more likely to attend.

Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust uses text messages to remind patients of their appointment.  By using these text message reminders, as well as other methods such as online cancellation forms, it is easier for patients who do need to cancel to get in touch with the Trust.  Overall, because of projects to reduce missed appointments, the number of missed appointments between April and December 2011 fell by over 12,000 or two percent of all appointments, compared to the same period, the year before.

Source: ©DH

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