Hundreds failing to cancel Doncaster hospital appointments that they can't attend

Doncaster Royal Infirmary
Doncaster Royal Infirmary

More than a third of people who missed appointments with Doncaster's hospitals trust had not bothered to try to re-arrange it, a survey has indicated.

More than a third of people who missed appointments with Doncaster's hospitals trust had not bothered to try to re-arrange it, a survey has indicated.

The finding has emerged after a major consultation exercise into missed appointments at the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust, where 50,000 scheduled dates are missed annually.

It reveals around 36 per cent of those surveyed who had previously missed appointments had not tried to re-arrange the time or let staff at the Trust know. That represented 117 people out of 327 who had missed appointments.

Emma Challans, deputy chief operating officer at DBTH, said: “Ensuring that you keep your hospital appointment, or rearranging it if you cannot make the scheduled date, is hugely important. By letting us know that you are not attending, the time can be used to see another patient, potentially giving that person access to vital screening, care and treatment as soon as possible.”

Experts estimate the cost of missed appointments is around £6 million annually at the trust, based at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

Now healthcare professionals are reminding patients to keep their appointments, or to cancel or rearrange if they cannot attend.

Nationally, around one in 10 appointments made are missed every year in England. Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH) is within the top 25 per cent of all trusts in the country for patients not attending appointments, recording around 140 missed a day.

The cost to the Doncaster trust in real-terms has been described as the equivalent of 200 nurses, 747 hip replacements or 22,388 MRI scans.

Healthwatch Doncaster has been working with the Trust, NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), as well as partners in Bassetlaw and Nottingham, to run a survey of more than more than 1,600 residents.

The organisation has now published its report, titled ‘Why people miss their hospital appointments in Doncaster and Bassetlaw’ .

Recommendations within the report highlight a desire for the Trust to make better use of technology such as ‘virtual consultations’ using software such as Skype or FaceTime, while 64 per cent of respondents believe more patient information is needed in order to engage and inform patients about their care.

To address some of these challenges, projects are already underway at the Trust to enhance telephony capacity, as well as introducing new digital systems such as an electronic referral system and exploring new, innovative and secure technology in order to better communicate with patients.

Ms Challans added: “While we look to make improvements, local residents can make a big difference by ensuring they check their post if expecting confirmation of a hospital appointment, setting reminders on smart phones and other devices making note of the number to call to rearrange and also helping elderly friends and relatives who have an upcoming health date. These are small changes that could make a big difference, ensuring people in Doncaster, Bassetlaw and beyond get the best care from the Trust.”

The findings from the report will be used by a project team at DBTH to take forward actions in order to reduce the number of missed appointments in the future and, ultimately, improve the quality of care for local patients.

Andrew Goodall, Chief Operating Officer at Healthwatch Doncaster, said: “I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to share their views within this report. Missed appointments is a particularly problematic issue for the NHS and this data gives us a real insight into the challenges the health service face, but also how it can improve in the future. If you have a hospital appointment, remember to keep it, cancel it or rearrange it if you cannot attend.”