43,640 missed appointments at Wigan NHS establishments

Missed appointments data has been released for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust
Missed appointments data has been released for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust

Thoughtless residents are costing the NHS money by not bothering to turn up for tens of thousands of appointments booked each year.

Shocking figures show there were a staggering 43,640 examples of patients not attending medical appointments at the sites run by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust in 2016-17.

The problem is on the increase as well, with the latest figure a notable rise from the 40,664 non-attendances in 2015-16.

The biggest problem was at Leigh Infirmary with 12,951 missed appointments in the most recent financial year and 12,505 in the 12-month period before that.

WWL revealed the problem is so bad in the borough that out-patient clinics are regularly overbooked as it can be virtually guaranteed that some of those scheduled to attend will not turn up.

That means the true financial cost to the health service of appointments not being attended cannot be worked out, although the Trust has admitted there is a knock-on effect to the purse.

Jenny Wheeler, WWL 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.

"We appreciate it is not always possible to keep an appointment.

"If you need to cancel or rearrange your hospital appointment for any reason, tell us as soon as possible so the appointment can benefit another patient and we can arrange for a more convenient appointment for you."

WWL said residents failing to attend out-patient sessions had a "significant impact" on hospitals, hitting the Trust financially and increasing waiting times for other people.

The FOI showed other sites with major issues include the Thomas Linacre Centre, where 9,727 appointments were not attended in 2016-17, and Wrightington Hospital with 8,037 sessions not attended.

There were also 6,419 appointments missed at Wigan Infirmary and 4,083 at Boston House and 634 at Atherton Health Centre.

WWL said its rate of appointments not being attended over the past three months was 7.3 per cent and the Trust is working hard to reduce that.

Appointment letters are produced in large print, Braille, alternative languages and audio formats and employees speak directly to patients to decide mutually-agreeable dates.

WWL says a text reminder service has proved successful and it also provides an automated voice reminder service which calls mobile or landline numbers seven to 10 days before an appointment.

To cancel or re-arrange an appointment call the WWL Booking Service on 0300 555 4567. Appointments can also be rearranged online at www.wwl.nhs.uk