NHS Fife & Tayside battle to reduce missed health appointments

NHS TAYSIDE and NHS Fife have brought in a number of initiatives to drive down missed hospital appointments, which are costing the region’s health services over £2 million a year.

Other schemes are also being explored in a bid to reduce the drain on NHS resources.

Over 20,000 new patients last year failed to turn up for their first hospital appointments in Tayside and Fife.

The figure included 1422 appointments for general surgery.

A spokesperson for NHS Tayside said, “We are currently exploring a range of initiatives which could help reduce the number of patients not turning up for their outpatient appointments.

“One of these is a system called ‘patient-focused booking’ where we write to patients six weeks before they are due to attend an outpatient clinic and invite them to call us to arrange an appointment time and date which suits them.

“We are also currently piloting an automated telephone reminder service in our renal department.”

This pilot will be closely monitored over the next three-six months to assess whether a patient reminder does have a positive effect on missed appointments.

Another project about to start works directly with patients themselves to look at what kind of appointment systems suit them best to help understand why people do not turn up for scheduled appointments.

“We believe all these initiatives can make a difference but we would still urge people to contact us as soon as possible if, for any reason, they are unable to attend the outpatient clinic,” the spokesperson added.

“This allows us to give someone else the original appointment and rearrange a more suitable date and time for the patient.”

Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland puts the cost of an average outpatient appointment at £112.

Figures show 9.5% (12,223) of 128,671 new outpatients missed appointments in Tayside in 2008, costing £1,368,976.

Last year there were 131,491 and 9.2% were skipped (12,097), costing £1,354,864.

There was also a rise in missed appointments on the other side of the Tay.

The figures show 8.6% (7228) of a total of 84,051 new patients missed outpatient appointments in Fife in 2008, costing £809,536 on average.

That went up to 8.8% (7906) of 89,850 in 2009, costing £885,472.

A spokeswoman for NHS Fife said, “The cost of missed appointments varies from specialty to specialty. NHS Fife has implemented a number of schemes to reduce the number of missed appointments.

A ‘patient-focused’ booking system has also been in place for a number of years in Fife and initially reduced missed appointments.

“To reduce the number of missed appointments further, NHS Fife has piloted a text reminder system in a few specialities over the last year and is examining how this can be extended,” she added.

In addition, as waiting times have reduced over the last few years, referral management and outpatient booking systems are being reviewed to ensure they are able to respond to the shorter waiting times.

Last year across Scotland 10.3% (150,502) of 1,461,190 appointments were missed, costing £16,103,714.

The figure has gone down from 10.4% (144,240) of 1,386,929 appointments skipped in 2008, costing £15,433,680.

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