City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation trust has lost more than £5million in a year due to thousands of patients not turning up to appointments, figures show.
Data from NHS England shows that in the 12 months to September 2018, 44,437 people either did not show up for an outpatient appointment at the trust, or arrived too late to be seen.
With the NHS struggling for funds amid budget cuts and increased demand, the British Medical Association (BMA) said it was crucial appointments are not wasted while the health service is “under incredible stress”.
The average outpatient appointment costs the NHS £120, according to the latest resources cost data.
This means that the 44,437 missed sessions cost City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust around £5.33million.
Hospital chiefs say that patients who cannot make appointments should cancel them as soon as they can.
Dr Sean Fenwick, director of Operations at City Hospitals Sunderland and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trusts said: “The NHS is under increasing pressure as never before and it is vital that patients and the public use health services responsibly to ensure that care is readily available for everyone who needs it and that no appointments are wasted.
“We understand that there are circumstances where patients are unable to attend appointments for genuine reasons and it is important for patients to let us know so we can offer a suitable alternative and give the original appointment to someone else who needs it.
“While missed appointments clearly have a financial impact on the NHS, most importantly there is also a detrimental impact for patients if they do not receive the care that they need, when they need it.
“Details of how to cancel or reschedule an appointment can be found on our website and you can also now do it online.
“Missed appointments do have an impact on patient care and you may be removed from the waiting list if fail to turn up for an appointment without letting us know.”
Dr Robert Harwood, chairman of the BMA’s consultant committee, said: “It is important that no appointments are wasted at a time when the NHS is under incredible stress.
“We should not stigmatise patients who may for legitimate reasons be unable to attend.
“However, we do need the NHS to emphasise through clear publicity to the public that, given the current unprecedented pressure, patients should make every possible effort to rearrange their appointment so that another person is able to receive treatment in their place.”
At City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, out of the 471,269 outpatient appointments, nine per cent did not show up.
The figures show 14,588 people failed to make their first appointment, eight per cent of first attendances.
A further of 29,849, or 10%, did not appear for a subsequent meeting.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “We need to support patients to make sure they can attend appointments, and be able to easily cancel or reschedule them.
“We need to make sure we are not asking patients to attend unnecessary appointments and we welcome the NHS Plan proposal cut face-to-face outpatient appointments by one third over the next five years.
“Text reminders and host of other measures and more technology will make life easier both for patients and the service, but as patients we all need to do our bit.”
Across England’s health providers, more than 5.8 million appointments were missed in the year to September 2018, which cost the NHS around £700million.
Patients who used London North West University Healthcare trust were the worst at showing up to appointments, while in Cambridge people were the most reliable.