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83,000 hospital appointments are missed in a year
More than 83,000 hospital appointments were missed by patients in the Bradford district last year, costing one NHS Trust more than £1 million, the Telegraph & Argus can reveal.
A Freedom of Information request by the T&A has shown that 70,430 people failed to turn up for appointments at Bradford Royal Infirmary while 12,871 appointments were missed at Airedale Hospital in 2012.
The BRI figures have risen dramatically from 2011 when there were 63,013 misses recorded – and despite the waste of time and resources there is no penalty system.
In a bid to halt missed appointments, a spokesman for BRI said it is now looking at ways of changing its appointment system by centralising it and giving patients more choice over times.
It is also sending text reminders to outpatients and making use of the “choose and book” system at GPs’ referral surgeries.
There was less of an increase at Airedale Hospital where the 2011 missed appointments stood at 12,527.
Airedale NHS Foundation Trust estimates the cost of missed appointments in 2012 lost it about £1,264,749 in income – shocking local politicians.
But BRI said that they did not record a cost, despite their missed numbers being much higher.
Bradford Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee chairman Mike Gibbons (Con, Ilkley) said the numbers were “a massive disadvantage” but any suggestion of imposing penalties on those who fail to turn up would not be realistic.
“It’s a massive disadvantage people not turning up for appointments, not just for themselves and the NHS but also for other people waiting to get even on the appointment list. It's a waste of time, resources and money,” he said.
“The idea of penalties has been looked at in the past but I don’t think it’s a step the NHS want to take. Collecting penalties would be difficult in reality. It's a matter of individual responsibility for making sure if you need an appointment you must keep it.”
Coun Jeanette Sunderland, the Liberal Democrat group leader on the Council, said taxpayers paying money for professionals to “sit and do nothing” while waiting for people to turn up were among the worst hit.
And she added: “We’ve got to look at the causes of these misses rather than just the bold figures to see why it’s happening then try to resolve it.”
The Conservative group leader on Bradford Council, Coun Glen Miller, said if people were regularly missing appointments then it suggested they did not need to be seen so urgently.
He added: “There are too many ways of people making excuses and getting out of missing appointments for penalties to be enforced, except maybe people who regularly miss appointments not to be seen so urgently.
“I find the text messages the hospitals send out as reminders are useful but I'd ask the Trust to monitor these figures carefully – maybe if people are missing these appointments they didn’t need them in the first place.”
Andrew Catto, executive medical director at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, said rolling out a text reminder service across its outpatients clinics has made sure the level of its missed appointments has remained stable.
“Most of our consultant appointments now use the reminder service. We would also like to thank our local community for their support, the majority of patients who do attend their appointments with us, and we will continue to explore other systems to further reduce our missed appointments,” he said.
A BRI spokesman said: “We know there are genuine reasons why some patients miss appointments but it does have a real impact on our work and other patients who are waiting for appointments.
“We are centralising the way we manage appointments and working to give patients more choice over the time of appointments to help reduce the number that are missed. We are also trying different ways to improve communication, such as sending reminders to patients via SMS text messages to increase attendance at outpatient clinics.
“However, we urge patients where possible to let us know if they’re unable to attend so that we can help rearrange the appointment to a more convenient time or give it to somebody else who is waiting for one.”
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