Patients who failed to show up for appointments cost Wigan hospitals a whopping £1.65m in the last six months.
Data from NHS England shows that, between January and June, 13,788 people either did not turn up for an outpatient appointment at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS trust clinics and surgeries or arrived too late to be seen.
With the NHS struggling for funds amid budget cuts and increased demand, the British Medical Association (BMA) said it was crucial appointments are not wasted while the health service is “under incredible stress”.
They said with modern communication there are no excuses for missed appointments.
The average outpatient appointment costs the NHS £120, according to the latest resources cost data.
This means that the 13,788 missed sessions cost Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust around £1.65m.
Dr Robert Harwood, chairman of the BMA’s consultant committee, said: “It is important that no appointments are wasted at a time when the NHS is under incredible stress. We should not stigmatise patients who may for legitimate reasons be unable to attend.
“However, we do need the NHS to emphasise through clear publicity to the public that given the current unprecedented pressure, patients should make every possible effort to rearrange their appointment so that another person is able to receive treatment in their place.”
At WWL, out of the 164,782 outpatient appointments, eight per cent of patients did not show up. The figures show 4,340 people failed to make their first appointment, eight per cent of first attendances, again 9,448, or eight per cent, did not appear for a subsequent meeting.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “The NHS is short of funding, short of staff and faces ever rising demand for its services.
“With modern communication, the excuses for missed appointments are running out. There will always be some unforeseen circumstances but in most circumstances, it should be possible to cancel appointments.
“Our members across the NHS are doing their bit – many hospitals and other services send out email and text reminders, and increasingly patients can check, book and cancel appointments on line. We would all acknowledge that the NHS can do more and using technology better will make life easier both for patients and the service. But patients can also do their bit – making the NHS as efficient as it can be, is in everyone’s interest.”
Across health providers over England almost 2.9 million appointments were missed between January and June, which cost the NHS around £350m.
WWL director of operations Mary Fleming said: “Most people who are offered an appointment attend, this helps keep waiting times down for everyone.
“The hospital works with patients to make sure appointments are convenient by providing appointment letters in large print, Braille, alternative languages or audio format and speaking directly to patients to agree mutually convenient appointment dates and time.
“Once an appointment is made we have a text reminder services and automated voice reminder service which reminds you of your appointment around seven to 10 days before your due to attend.
“However, for the small number of people who can’t attend their appointment it’s very easy to cancel or rearrange an appointment by calling 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.”