Healthcare professionals are reminding patients to keep, cancel or rearrange their hospital appointments if they cannot attend, as a report into why over 50,000 scheduled dates are missed annually is published.
Nationally, around one in 10 appointments made are missed every year in England, costing the health service millions of pounds. Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH) is within the top 25% of all trusts in the country for patients not attending appointments, recording around 140 missed a day.
Equating to around £6 million in lost funding annually for DBTH, in real-terms this wasted cash is the equivalent of 200 nurses, 747 hip replacements or 22,388 MRI scans.
In order to understand why patients miss these appointments, Healthwatch Doncaster has been working with the Trust, NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), as well as partners in Bassetlaw and Nottingham, to speak with local people to get their views.
Surveying more than 1,600 residents, the report ‘Why people miss their hospital appointments in Doncaster and Bassetlaw’ reveals that around 36% of those asked have previously missed appointments without trying to rearrange the time or letting staff at the Trust know.
Emma Challans, Deputy Chief Operating Officer at DBTH, said: “Ensuring that you keep your hospital appointment, or rearranging it if you cannot make the scheduled date, is hugely important. By letting us know that you are not attending, the time can be used to see another patient, potentially giving that person access to vital screening, care and treatment as soon as possible.”
Recommendations within the report highlight a desire for the Trust to make better use of technology such as ‘virtual consultations’ using software such as Skype or FaceTime, while 64% of respondents believe more patient information is needed in order to engage and inform patients about their care.
To address some of these challenges, projects are already underway at the Trust to enhance telephony capacity, as well as introducing new digital systems such as the Electronic Referral System and exploring new, innovative and secure technology in order to better communicate with patients.
Emma continues: “While we look to make improvements, local residents can make a big difference by ensuring they check their post if expecting confirmation of a hospital appointment, setting reminders on smart phones and other devices making note of the number to call to rearrange and also helping elderly friends and relatives who have an upcoming health date. These are small changes that could make a big difference, ensuring people in Doncaster, Bassetlaw and beyond get the best care from the Trust.”
The findings from the report will be used by a project team at DBTH to take forward actions in order to reduce the number of missed appointments in the future and, ultimately, improve the quality of care for local patients.
Andrew Goodall, Chief Operating Officer at Healthwatch Doncaster, said: “I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to share their views within this report. Missed appointments is a particularly problematic issue for the NHS and this data gives us a real insight into the challenges the health service face, but also how it can improve in the future. If you have a hospital appointment, remember to keep it, cancel it or rearrange it if you cannot attend.”
The full report can be found on Healthwatch Doncaster’s website and is accessible here: www.healthwatchdoncaster.org.uk/missedappointments