Missed appointments cost Shropshire hospitals more than £3 million
Shropshire's hospitals lost more than £3 million in a year due to thousands of patients not turning up to appointments, figures show.
It cost Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford's Princess Royal Hospital, more than £2.5 million in the 12 months to September last year.
NHS data shows the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust also lost about £647,000.
At Sath, 21,022 people either did not show up for an outpatient appointment at the trust, or arrived too late to be seen.
There were 5,391 missed sessions at RJAH, according to the data from NHS England.
Nigel Lee, chief operating officer at Sath, said the trust had been able to reduce the number of people missing appointments by introducing a telephone and text reminder service, and its 'Did Not Attend' rates compare well with other trusts.
He said: “We contact more than 8,500 patients every month, with missed appointments costing the trust up to £160 each, depending on the speciality.
“Missed appointments don’t just mean a loss of money, however.
"They also lead to longer waiting lists.
"We would ask anyone who is unable to attend their appointment to let us know as soon as possible so that it can be offered to someone else."
Paula Jeffreson, deputy director of operations at RJAH, said they also use a text system.
She added: "In recent months, we have been working hard to improve our administrative processes and make changes in performance and patient experience, some of which relates to cancellations. One of our key pieces of work on this was called Breaking the Cycle, which used service improvement tools to improve our booking system and responsiveness to patient enquiries.”
With the NHS struggling for funds amid budget cuts and increased demand, the British Medical Association said it was crucial appointments are not wasted while the health service is "under incredible stress".
The average outpatient appointment costs the NHS £120, according to the latest resources cost data.
Dr Robert Harwood, chairman of the BMA's consultant committee, said: "It is important that no appointments are wasted at a time when the NHS is under incredible stress.
"We should not stigmatise patients who may for legitimate reasons be unable to attend.
"However, we do need the NHS to emphasise through clear publicity to the public that, given the current unprecedented pressure, patients should make every possible effort to rearrange their appointment so that another person is able to receive treatment in their place."
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: "We need to support patients to make sure they can attend appointments, and be able to easily cancel or reschedule them.
"We need to make sure we are not asking patients to attend unnecessary appointments and we welcome the NHS Plan proposal to cut face-to-face outpatient appointments by one third over the next five years.
"Text reminders and a host of other measures and more technology will make life easier both for patients and the service, but as patients we all need to do our bit."
Across England's health providers, more than 5.8 million appointments were missed in the year to September 2018, which cost the NHS around £700 million.
Patients who used London North West University Healthcare trust were the worst at showing up to appointments, while in Cambridge people were the most reliable.