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35,000 patients who waste doctors’ time
MISSED appointments at Oxfordshire’s hospitals are costing health bosses more than half a million pounds a year.
There have been a total of 35,175 missed appointments at the Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Trust in the last financial year.
Each missed appointment at the John Radcliffe, Churchill, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and Horton hospitals, costs an average of between £10 and £15 in lost time and resources, meaning the missed appointments – labelled ‘did not attends’ – cost the trust £527,625.
The previous year the number of appointments missed was 42,957, costing the trust up to £645,000.
It comes as the trust is faced with making £160m of cuts over the next four years as part of a Government drive to slash £20bn from the cost of the NHS.
This will include £3.6m saved by closing wards, £2.5m worth of job cuts including compulsory redundancies and £3.2m from changes to nursing rotas.
Paul Brennan, the trust’s directtor of clinical services, said: “It is really important that people turn up, otherwise our nurses and doctors’ time is wasted, and other patients’ care may be delayed.
“We would urge patients to give us plenty of notice when they are unable to make their appointment.”
The figures have dropped significantly since the situation reached crisis point a decade ago when thousands of patients failed to turn up for hospital appointments in Oxfordshire – costing the NHS millions of pounds.
In 1998, the Oxford Mail revealed figures for the Oxford and Anglia NHS Region showed 9.2 per cent of patients failed to turn up for appointments – a total of 140,000 –costing the NHS £19.8m.
In 2008 the OUH – then the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital Trust (ORH) – launched a text messaging service to remind patients not to miss their appointments.
The text messages remind patients two or three days before an appointment that they need to attend, cancel or rebook.
The hospital has also made patient letters much more specific, with contact information and instructions for changing appointment days and times more clearly presented. A ‘choose and book system’ also means patients can pick a date which suits them.
The South Central Health Authority – which covers the Oxfordshire area – said of 3,491,132 outpatient appointments across the region, 7.7 per cent of patients did not attend.
This compares to 8.7 per cent of patients out of 3,815,786 outpatient appointments missed in 2009/10.
Health Minister Simon Burns said: “Patients often have genuine reasons to miss an appointment, but it can have a big impact on the care we can offer to other patients.
“It is important that the public understand we have responsibilities too, like not wasting precious NHS resources.”
The similar-sized Great Western Hospitals Trust in Swindon had just 21,614 missed appointments last year. It is believed the OUH has more because it is a regional referral centre for cancer patients and the Oxford Children’s Hospital.