The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

33,062 no-shows for NHS appointments

Central Manchester University Hospitals have seen over an estimated £3,570,696 lost to missed appointments in the past three months alone

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In a Freedom of Information request made by The Mancunion, Central Manchester University Hospitals have revealed that the number of ‘Did Not Attends’ (DNAs) for the months of December 2016, January 2017 and February 2017 was 33,062 people.

10,230 of these were first DNAs, and 22,832 were reviews.

This data does not include those who cancel or reschedule appointments, but simply those who fail to turn up on the day. According to the government website, one in every ten outpatient appointments is missed each year. This is despite text message reminders being sent to patients, which have shown to decrease the number of missed appointments.

According to the NHS website, each missed hospital outpatient appointment in the year 2012/13 cost on average £108. Whilst this figure is a few years old, and the cost will most likely have risen, it can be used as a rough estimate when calculating how much has been lost to missed appointments in three months in Central Manchester University Hospitals alone. At 33,062 missed appointments, the lowest estimate of cost is in excess of £3,570,696.

Whilst some practises choose to discharge patients who fail to attend appointments on multiple occasions, there is no current fine for missed appointments, although the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted that the government would favour such charges, but that they would be difficult to impose.

In an article published on the NHS website, Beverley Bryant, Director of Digital Transformation at NHS Digital, states: “It’s important that people realise that not turning up to appointments can have a big impact on the care and treatment we are able to give other patients. It wastes Doctors’ and Nurses’ time too, which costs taxpayers money.

“Patient care is always at the top of our agenda.  That‘s why we are doing everything we can to make our service match with people’s lifestyles and the technology they use, to give more people easy access to the services they need.  We hope the public will do their bit too by making sure they attend or cancel appointments in good time. That way, everybody benefits.”

In a anonymous survey conducted by The Mancunion, 20.6 per cent of respondents admitted that they had failed to turn up to an NHS appointment without prior cancellation — this is higher than the NHS figure of 10 per cent.

When asked for an approximation of how much each missed appointment costs the NHS, the figures varied from under £10 to over £1000, with most answers falling between £20 and £70. One respondent replied “hopefully not too much or i feel bad [sic]”.

Of those who had failed to turn up to appointments, 47 per cent answered that they had simply forgotten about their appointment. 19 per cent felt too unwell to attend, and 14 per cent could no longer attend and did not know how to officially cancel their appointment. Other answers included poor mental health and problems with the booking system. One respondent explained that they “officially missed four” after getting a same-day appointment. They claimed to have been “sent to the wrong floor” four times before receiving text messages informing them that they had missed their appointment on four separate occasions.

100 per cent of people surveyed by The Mancunion thought that text message reminders for appointments were a good idea, although some people thought that they needed improvements to other aspects of the booking system.

“Yes text reminders work… but also flexible booking which allows people to arrange appointments that are practical and convenient — so they are more likely to attend” was one reply, and another respondent explained that whilst text reminders are good, they “don’t necessarily have enough informtion [sic] in them for you to get to the appointment”.

Two respondents critiqued reminders through the post as being costly and too slow.

According to the government website, text message reminders of appointments have been proven to reduce the number of DNAs, but there is “no evidence for what the reminder message should say”.

One trial proved that informing patients of the cost of missed appointments did have a positive impact on their likelihood to turn up to the appointment.