Huge cost of missed health appointments

PATIENTS who failed to turn up to medical appointments without cancelling them in advance cost an Essex health trust more than £1.4million last year, it has emerged.

Roddy Ashworth

PATIENTS who failed to turn up to medical appointments without cancelling them in advance cost an Essex health trust up to £1.4million last year, it has emerged.

And last night West Chelmsford MP Simon Burns said that there was “no excuse” for people not attending pre-booked appointments without informing their hospital first.

His comments came after a request made under the Freedom of Information Act revealed a worrying upward trend in Did Not Attend (DNA) numbers at Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust.

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The trust, which runs Broomfield Hospital, near Chelmsford, recorded 12,966 cases of patients failing to attend appointments without notification last year.

This compares to 11,015 DNAs in 2006, 10,428 in 2005 and 10,079 in 2004. In 2003 there were 9,733 recorded DNAs.

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Figures supplied by the trust showed that the cost of the appointments missed last year, calculated on the average cost of procedures, was £1,405,997. In 2003 it was calculated at £1,009,488.

And this year, initial figures suggest that costs could rise even higher for 2008, with the current total up to June already standing at £846,476.

However, the trust stressed that a patient not attending a clinic did not always result in an unused slot, because other people could sometimes be fitted in to plug the gap.

Mr Burns said he was extremely concerned at the loss of revenue caused by DNAs and the inconvenience to other patients waiting for appointments and treatment.

“Not only have the number of missed appointments increased every year in the last five years but also, even given the qualifications in the information, the waste of money to the trust is significant,” he said.

“If these costs were not being occurred it would mean extra money to be invested in patient care.

“To my mind, there is no excuse for people failing to meet their appointments without giving reasonable notice to the trust.”

Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust also runs St John's Hospital in Chelmsford, St Peter's Hospital in Maldon, the William Julien Courtauld Hospital and St Michael's Hospital in Braintree and the Chelmsford and Essex Centre.

A trust spokeswoman said: “We always try to give patients as much notice as possible of an appointment, but as waiting times come down this is more difficult as we want patients to be able to access our services as quickly as possible.

“We always give patients more than two weeks notice of an appointment, unless there is a clinical reason to make it sooner or the patient is happy to accept it sooner.

“With more patients using the choose and book system they are able to choose the date and time of their appointment, rather than it being allocated by the hospital, so they can make it at their convenience.

“It is important that the patient always lets the hospital know if they are unable to attend an appointment as early as possible, rather than just not turning up as it affects the running of our clinics, and other patients, as well as costing us time and money.”

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