New Appointment System for Patients; Health Reporter HELEN RAE Explains How Missed Medical Appointments Are Costing the NHS a Substantial Amount of Money

Article excerpt


EACH time a patient fails to attend their outpatient appointment it costs the NHS in the region of more than pounds 100.

Last year, there were about 28,000 wasted appointment slots at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, costing Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust about pounds 4m.

To help reduce the number of missed appointments, the associated cost, and to improve waiting times for patients, the trust is introducing a new appointment confirmation service to begin next month.

Denise Reay, assistant divisional manager for the hospital's assessment, diagnostics and screening division, said: "A few days before their appointment, patients will be contacted by an automated telephone call or a call made by call centre staff.

"To ensure quality and confidentiality standards are maintained, all calls will be recorded. Calls will be made between 1pm and 8pm, which patients have told us is the best time for them to be contacted.

"The instructions in the telephone call will ask the patient to confirm who they are before giving their appointment details. Patients can then choose the appropriate option to confirm, cancel or rearrange their appointment."

The service is free of charge to patients and another trust already using the service has found 97% of patients appreciated their appointment reminder. The cost of the service to the trust is insignificant compared with the amount of money wasted through missed appointments each year.

And if just 10% of slots that would have been wasted can be reallocated to other patients, the service will have paid for itself.

Denise said: "The appointment confirmation service is already being used in a number of NHS trusts to reduce what we call Did Not Attends, which in turn saves money and reduces patients' waiting times.

"Excellent results have been achieved at other trusts including a 65% improvement at Dumfries and Galloway and a 43% improvement at Plymouth Hospitals. …


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