Dr David Crichton’s blog: If you miss, others will miss out too

This is a transcript of my My View column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 19 February, 2018

A recent study has found that, every year, the number of people who miss a local hospital appointment would fill Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium to capacity more than three times over.

The figure is staggering – 50,000 hospital appointments wasted in Doncaster because people simply don’t turn up for them.

Empty seats that should be filled are a drain – they cost the NHS precious time and money and stretch our finite resources even further.

In fact, missed hospital appointments are costing the NHS in Doncaster dearly – around £6 million a year. Enough to pay for 200 nurses, around 750 hip replacements and more than 22,000 MRI scans.

We all pick up the tab for those empty seats through our taxes.

But just as important, empty seats are not fair. They make waiting lists grow and deprive other patients of the opportunity to see an expert and potentially start the treatment they need much sooner.

So, if you miss, others miss out too.

Across the country, around one in every 10 scheduled hospital appointments is missed for whatever reason. Unfortunately, Doncaster is in the bottom league when it comes to not turning up and the only way we will climb out of it is by taking more responsibility for our actions.

A newly published report by Healthwatch Doncaster into why people miss their hospital appointments locally includes information gleaned from a survey that 1600 people took part in.

Whilst the majority of respondents said they kept their appointments, a significant number said they had missed at least one without trying to rearrange or letting the hospital know. Clearly this is an issue that needs addressing

So what can we do to tackle the problem which – as well as hospitals – affects all areas of the NHS, including GP surgeries?

The hospital Trust in Doncaster is looking at what it can do to remind and encourage people to keep their appointments. A ‘think tank’ group is meeting regularly to look at the suggestions people made in the survey to see what can be learned.

A number of recommendations have been made, including making wider use of technology like Skype and facetime for online consultations with patients. Nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents said they would like more information about their care to help them understand why they have been referred for a hospital appointment, and this is also being looked at.

But everyone has a part to play in filling those empty waiting room seats. Keep your appointment details safe and make a note of them somewhere where you will see them as the date approaches. Similarly, if you have an elderly or vulnerable relative who has been given one, remind them too..

The NHS is ready to help, we shouldn’t keep it waiting. So if you are given an appointment -please keep, cancel or re-arrange it.

If everybody is fair, we all win.