Suffolk: �18 million wasted on missed hospital appointments

NEARLY �18 million has been wasted by missed appointments at Suffolk hospitals, new figures reveal.

Figures from 2009 until October this year show that 184,947 appointments were rendered redundant by patients not attending at a cost of �17.6m.

At Ipswich Hospital alone the missed appointments cost them �10.2m.

The hospital in Heath Road launched a telephone and text reminder service a year ago, which bosses say has helped reduce the number of redundant appointments.

Despite the high numbers involved, the hospital has one of the lowest missed appointment rates in the country - at just 5%.

Patrick Harrington, telephone reminder service project lead, said: “Not only does this reminder system help patients who have forgotten their appointment, but it makes it easier for patients to cancel if they no longer want the appointment, or to rebook if they cannot make the date available.

“We need everyone to understand that we cannot treat an empty chair. The slot forgotten or ignored by one patient would be so valuable to someone else.”

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At West Suffolk Hospital 67,046 appointments have been missed in the three-and-a-half period. The hospital estimates that each appointment costs about �110, which amounts to �7,375,060.

Debs Wakefield, outpatients manager at West Suffolk Hospital, said the hospital is launching a telephone reminder next year, where patients can use the buttons on their keypad to confirm or rearrange.

She added: “We are also investigating the possibility of introducing text messages alerts as an extra reminder in the future.”

The figures have been released following a Freedom of Information request by the East Anglian Daily Times.

Dr Daniel Poulter MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health said patients needed to take responsibility for their own health.

He said: “Patients need to realise that missing appointments may mean that other sick and ill people are not receiving care as a result.

“I know that the new Chief Executive Nigel Beverley is working to reduce the numbers of missed appointments at Ipswich Hospital by raising awareness amongst staff and patients of the financial and human cost to NHS patients of missed appointments.”

At Colchester General 126,609 appointments were missed, but the hospital were unable to give an approximate cost.

A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said: “It is important that members of the public appreciate that they too have responsibilities, like not wasting precious NHS resources.

“As The NHS Constitution states: ‘You should keep appointments, or cancel within reasonable time. Receiving treatment within the maximum waiting times may be compromised unless you do.”

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