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Missed appointments cost Sunderland health officials more than £2.5million

Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Sunderland Royal Hospital.

City Hospitals Sunderland trust has lost more than £2.5million this year due to thousands of patients not turning up to appointments, figures show.

Health bosses say it is vital that patients and the public use health services responsibly as the NHS daces increasing pressure.

A hospital ward. Picture by PA Archive/PA Images

A hospital ward. Picture by PA Archive/PA Images

Data from NHS England shows that, between January and June, 21,875 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 21,875 missed sessions cost City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust around £2.63million.

Dr Sean Fenwick, director of operations at South Tyneside and City Hospitals Sunderland 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.”

At City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, out of the 235,258 outpatient appointments, 9% of patients did not show up.

The figures show 7,099 people failed to make their first appointment, 7% of first attendances, while 14,776, or 9%, did not appear for a subsequent meeting.

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.”

Across health providers over England almost 2.9 million appointments were missed between January and June, which cost the NHS around £350million.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “The NHS is short of funding, short of staff and faces ever rising demand for its services.

“With modern communication, the excuses for missed appointments are running out. There will always be some unforeseen circumstances but in most circumstances, it should be possible to cancel appointments.

“Our members across the NHS are doing their bit – many hospitals and other services send out email and text reminders, and increasingly patients can check, book and cancel appointments on line.

“We would all acknowledge that the NHS can do more and using technology better will make life easier both for patients and the service. But patients can also do their bit – making the NHS as efficient as it can be, is in everyone’s interest.”