Tackling 40,000 wasted hospital appointments

Scunthorpe General Hospital
Scunthorpe General Hospital

Improvements to the appointments system at Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Goole hospitals are being introduced to reduce the number of wasted appointments.

Every year around 10 per cent of patients fail to turn up for their appointments, equating to around 40,000 lost appointments. This costs both time and money, taking valuable resources away from the NHS.

Many of these patients say they simply forgot that it was their appointment that day.

The Trust which runs the hospitals is introducing a text message reminder service and an option for patients to cancel their appointment online in a bid to reduce the number of DNAs (did not attend).

The text message reminder system has been available previously but patients had to opt-in to the service to use it. From April 1 2015 all Ophthalmology (eye care) and ENT (ear, nose and throat) patients will automatically be registered for the service, with the option to opt-out if they wish.

Patients will receive two texts, one seven days before the appointment and one two days before. The text will remind them the date and time of the appointment, the speciality it is with and the hospital site to attend.

The new system will be trialed for one month and providing it is successful it will then be rolled out to all outpatient appointments at the three hospitals.

Patients are being asked to ensure the Trust has their up-to-date mobile number ahead of the new service going live. They can do this by contacting the speciality they are currently under or by completing a short form online at http://www.nlg.nhs.uk/contact/enquiries/

Sarah Jayne Thompson, improvement delivery facilitator, said: “Of the patients that fail to attend the majority are advising that they forgot about their appointment as they received the letter so far in advance. Introducing this new service is a simple but effective way to reduce the number of wasted appointments each year.

“I am working with ophthalmology and ENT to ensure that no appointments are booked more than six weeks in advance. This should reduce hospital cancellations but also assist patients remembering their appointments.

“Opthalmology and ENT are specialities with a high demand for appointments, we expect that the reduction of DNAs will help the services manage the waiting lists more effectively.”

Overall at the Trust ENT has a DNA rate of 13.7 per cent which is equivalent to 3,132 lost appointments per year, just over 60 per week. Ophthalmology has a DNA rate of 9.8 per cent which is equivalent to 4,530 lost appointments per year or 87 per week.

An online form has also been developed so that anyone who can’t make it to their appointment can cancel it online and request a new one.

Sarah added: “Some patients have told us they’ve struggled to contact the Trust via the telephone to cancel their appointment. Now they can go straight to the website, any time of day, and fill in a form which only takes a few minutes and saves them the cost of the phone call.”

To access the cancellation form go to www.nlg.nhs.uk/patients/appointments/ (from April 1)

Any opthalmology or ENT patients wishing to opt-out of the text reminder service can call (01724) 387838 for Scunthorpe and Goole and (01472) 302533 for Grimsby.

Patients who have outpatient appointments for other specialties currently need to register if they want to benefit from the text message reminder service.

If you have an appointment you can’t make it to please inform the hospital at least 48 hours prior to your appointment so that your slot can be given to another patient.