Astonishing 50,000 patients fail to turn up for hospital appointments

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MORE than 50,000 patients failed to turn up for their hospital appointments in Sunderland during the past 12 months.

Now, cheesed-off health bosses are piloting a new scheme in a bid to tackle the problem.

A pilot initiative is being tried out in the endocrinology, gastroenterology, nephrology and thoracic medicine departments which reminds patients about their appointments.

The trust is working with telecoms firm 360CRM to provide telephone reminder calls about a week before an appointment is due.

Patients will be asked to confirm whether they are going to attend or not and, if not, offered a chance to cancel altogether or reschedule.

With patients forgetting about appointments and clerical or communication failures the main causes of missed appointments, bosses are hopeful the new system will make a real difference to the Did Not Attend (DNA) rate.

Alex Curtis, performance manager for City Hospitals Sunderland, said: “In 2010/11 we had more than 50,000 patients that ‘did not attend’ their appointment without giving any prior notice,” he said.

“This represents a DNA rate of 9.1 per cent for the year across the entire trust, which equates to approximately one in every 11 patients.”

Cutting the DNA rate by just 1.1 per cent would have saved the trust an estimated £60,000 in wasted clinic and staff costs and income, said Mr Curtis, as well as allowing other patients’ appointments to be brought forward, reducing their waiting time.

“Moving to eight per cent would be a significant reduction in the DNA rate across the four specialities, who generally have higher DNA rates than the trust overall, but we think it’s a realistic and achievable goal.”

The pilot project has been running since June, but Mr Curtis said it was not yet possible to say how it was doing.

“We have had positive start so far, particularly in thoracic medicine, but it’s a bit too early to tell what the real impact is, as the service itself is still bedding amongst staff and patients,” he said.

Twitter: @Sunechobiz