Tens of thousands of missed outpatient appointments at Wigan's hospitals

Patients failed to attend tens of thousands of outpatient appointments at Wigan’s hospitals last year, new figures show.
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It comes as the number of missed appointments across England topped eight million for the first time in 2022-23.

The Patients Association said it would like to see "the health service be more curious and compassionate" about patients' absence.

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NHS England figures show patients did not attend 46,980 outpatient appointments at Wigan's hospitals in 2022-23 – up from 45,950 the year beforeNHS England figures show patients did not attend 46,980 outpatient appointments at Wigan's hospitals in 2022-23 – up from 45,950 the year before
NHS England figures show patients did not attend 46,980 outpatient appointments at Wigan's hospitals in 2022-23 – up from 45,950 the year before
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NHS England figures show patients did not attend 46,980 outpatient appointments at hospitals run by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) in 2022-23 – up from 45,950 the year before.

It accounted for seven per cent of the 637,040 total appointments scheduled.

A Wigan health chief today urged patients to keep the trust in the loop if they weren’t going to make appointments and explained various ways how this can be achieved.

Nationally, a record eight million of 124.5 million appointments (6.4 per cent) were missed. It is the highest proportion of missed appointments since 2017-18, when 6.7 per cent went unattended.

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The Patients Association said there are eight million different stories behind the missed appointments, and called on healthcare professionals to be "curious" about why patients are absent.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said many patients who miss appointments are at risk of health inequalities, and urged the NHS to be compassionate.

She said the NHS should focus on making it easier for patients to get to an appointment, with many unable to attend due to caring responsibilities, travel difficulties, or not receiving a reminder if the appointment was booked a long time before.

The figure also showed hospitals cancelled 12.1 million outpatient appointments across the country – a rise of four per cent on the year before, and the highest figure since records began, excluding 2020-21, which was affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Of these, 66,045 were cancelled by WWL.

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There were 95.9 million attendances nationally, up on the last two years but slightly below pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, patients contacted hospitals and cancelled 7.9 million appointments, also down on before Covid-19.

At WWL facilities 66,595 appointments were cancelled by patients, while there was a total of 455,195 attendances.

WWL deputy chief executive Mary Fleming said: “WWL would like to take this opportunity to remind our patients that it is really important that if they are unable to attend their appointments, they let us know.

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“We recognise there can be many contributing factors to why patients do not attend, which could be due to caring responsibilities, travel difficulties, or not receiving a reminder if the appointment was booked a long time before.

"Therefore, we have introduced a number of initiatives to help to support this, which include contacting patients via text messaging ahead of their appointments to confirm that they will still be attending.

"We have also increased our virtual clinics to help improve access for patients and are rolling out a digital solution called Dr Doctor, which is a patient engagement platform, enabling patients to self-book appointments, promoting remote care.”

An NHS spokesperson said the service is treating record numbers of patients and dealing with ongoing industrial action.

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They added: "There are many reasons why patients miss appointments, and so our main message is always it is vital people seek care when they need it.

"But if patients are unable to attend for any reason, we would ask them to let us know so their appointment can be filled by another patient who needs it."