Missed appointments may have cost Doncaster hospitals more than £5 million through pandemic
Around one in ten hospital appointments were missed by patients at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust during the coronavirus pandemic – potentially losing more than £5 million.
The failed appointments waste time and heap pressure on consultants who already face “extraordinary demand” due to the virus, says the British Medical Association.
NHS Digital data shows that in the 11 months from April last year, there were 31,815 outpatient appointments which people did not show up for.
It means out of 331,715 booked sessions, ten per cent were unattended.
And with the average outpatient appointment costing £160 – as estimated by several NHS trusts – the no-shows may have cost Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust around £5.1 million.
Across England's health providers, 5 million appointments were missed during the same period to the end of February, around seven per cent of those booked – wasting the NHS an estimated £760 million.
Dr Rob Harwood, BMA consultants committee chairman, said it was “concerning” to see the rate of failed appointments given the current backlog in care.
He said: “We urge people not to just simply fail to attend as this wastes an appointment time that could have been used for someone else; someone who might potentially need it more urgently.
“It also places the most pressure on consultants trying to deliver a service under extraordinary demand and in already difficult circumstances.”
At Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust, the rate of missed hospital appointments was at its highest in November when 11 per cent were no-shows, 3,970 in total.
Across England, the highest rates of people failing to show for appointments were in December and January – coinciding with the second wave of the pandemic.
A spokesperson from NHS England said measures were in place in hospitals to ensure patients remained safe.
They added: "People should continue to attend their medical appointments as normal - if you are unable to attend for any reason, please let us know so your appointment can be filled by another patient who may need it.”
Of the missed appointments at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust, 10,845 were first appointments and 20,970 were follow-ups. All figures are rounded to the nearest five.
Rebecca Joyce, Chief Operating Officer at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said: “We have been working hard to ensure that our clinical appointments are accessible to all, however, we understand that due to extenuating circumstances that it hasn’t been possible for every patient to keep every appointment throughout the past 12 months.
“In order to further enhance the service we offer, and assist local people in keeping their hospital dates, we will soon launch our digital letter and appointment reminder service, in partnership with DrDoctor. In short, patients will receive a notification text message of any upcoming hospital appointments, with all related information stored within a bespoke and secure web portal for each individual.
“We hope that this will not only decrease the number of missed appointments we see, but also offer a better service for our patients – providing accessible information at the touch of a button, as well as the means to rearrange their hospital date for a more convenient time for them. We anticipate this service to go-live in early May.”