WIGANERS who missed outpatient appointments cost Wigan’s hospital trust more than £1m in just three months.
The shock figures come at a time when Wrightington Wigan Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) is tasked with saving £24.7m over the next two years as part of NHS budget cut backs.
Reports from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) reveal that the estimated cost of a missed appointment is £108. And between March and May this year some 9,134 outpatients appointments were missed. This amounts to an estimated cost to WWL of £1,005,912.
Hospital chiefs are now pleading with patients to let them know they cannot attend an appointment.
A spokesperson for WWL said: “Patients who fail to attend their outpatient appointments – also known as ‘did not attend’ (DNA) – have a significant impact on our services and other patients.
“The average DNA rate at WWL for the past three months is seven per cent. WWL are working hard to develop and use innovative, yet simple, ideas to reduce the number of missed appointments and so decrease this percentage.
“Current proactive initiatives include providing appointment letters in large print, Braille, alternative languages or audio format and speaking directly to patients to decide mutually agreeable appointment dates and times.
“Our text reminder service has proved successful in reducing follow up appointment DNAs. By using these text message reminders, as well as other methods such as our online contact form, it is easier for our patients - who do need to cancel - to get in touch with us.
“We have also introduced an automated voice reminder service. The service calls mobile or landline numbers seven to 10 days before an appointment. This prompts patients to confirm their appointment or request that it be cancelled or changed.
“Most recently, we have been developing a reporting system to assist further analysis of data in respect to patients’ age, sex, disability, ethnic origin etc. This forms part of the Trust’s agenda to support the equality standards and raise awareness of disability. It will help to understand whether these are contributing factors to patients not attending appointments.”
Nationally the HSCIC says one in 50 patients who missed an outpatient appointment failed to attend three or more further appointments within three months.
The report also revealed that 13 per cent of patients who did not attend an outpatient appointment went on to have an unplanned A&E attendance.
Jenny Wheeler, Health Care Operations Manager said “As healthcare professionals, we are working really hard to support our patients to make sure they can attend their appointment. We have cancellation lines, text reminders and other systems to offer alternative appointments. But we need our patients to do their bit too and to please let us know if they aren’t coming for an appointment.”
Jenny continued “We appreciate it is not always possible to keep an appointment. If you need to cancel or rearrange your hospital appointment for any reason, please tell us as soon as possible so the appointment can benefit another patient and we can arrange for a more convenient appointment for you.”
To cancel or rearrange an appointment at Wigan Infirmary, Leigh Infirmary, Wrightington Hospital or the Thomas Linacre Centre, call the WWL Booking Service on 0300 555 4567. Otherwise visit the WWL website (www.wwl.nhs.uk), click the ‘Rearrange an Appointment’ link on the home page and enter details of the appointment.