PATIENTS who miss appointments with their dentist are costing the NHS thousands of pounds each month, figures reveal.
In December there were 61 missed appointments at clinics at Houghton Health Centre, Grindon Lane Primary Care Centre, Monkwearmouth Health Centre and Washington Primary Care Centre, leading to about 28 hours of lost clinical time and wasting almost £3,500.
The news comes less than six months after the Echo reported that 50,000 patients missed appointments at Sunderland Royal Hospital in the space of just 12 months.
Health chiefs said missed appointments currently cost the taxpayer more than £24million each year across the region.
Bosses today warned that by not turning up for appointments patients will face delays in being seen.
Bronia Fleet, clinical business manager with South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, which provides dental services in Sunderland, said: “If patients are unable to keep their appointment then we would urge them to please let us know as soon as possible so that we can give the appointment to someone else.
“Missed appointments waste NHS time and money.
“If staff are busy, the department has a telephone answer machine for people to leave a message.”
Houghton councillor Colin Wakefield hit out at the waste of missed appointments.
Coun Wakefield, who serves Copt Hill ward, said: “There is a huge amount of money spent on NHS resources and it’s just not on that people miss these appointments without letting them know.
“It’s a common courtesy to just let someone know and not to do so is ridiculous.”
The trust’s team of staff provides specialised NHS dental services, not usually available in general dental practice, for adults or children who have been referred by a doctor, a dentist, or other health or social care professional.
This includes treatment of patients who require sedation, treatment under general anaesthetic and home visit assessments.
Patients who book appointments but then cannot make the date should let their practice know as soon as possible.