EXCLUSIVE: Missed hospital appointments waste £5.3million

The statistics broken down.

The statistics broken down. - Credit: Archant

The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RD&E) is forced to cough up the equivalent of 252 nurses’ salaries each year because of residents missing appointments.

The statistics broken down.

The statistics broken down. - Credit: Archant

The cash-strapped NHS had to fork out £5.3million between April 2014 and April 2015 for 33,241 patients who were no-shows, a Herald investigation can reveal.

This works out at an average of 91 missed appointments a day, costing an estimated £160 each and wasting around £14,500 every day.

Residents cost Sidmouth Victoria Hospital £22,707 missing 261 appointments in 2014 and 2015 - with each non-attendance creating a new £87 bill.

The age group responsible for the most missed appointments were those over 60. Statistics showed 148 residents failed to turn up when they were supposed to, making up for 56.7 per cent of all the missed appointments - this is four times the amount of any other age category.


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Patients from 40 to 49 years old made up for 13 per cent, while those aged from 50 to 59 made up 11.1 per cent of all missed appointments.

Residents between 30 and 39 years old were the next highest, making up 7.7 per cent, while those aged from 20 to 29 and under 19 both made up 5.7 per cent.

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Patients gave a number of reasons for not showing up, with 59.8 per cent claiming they were given no advance warning and 10.3 per cent saying it was down to social reasons. Overall, 1.9 per cent missed their appointments on medical advice and 2.3 per cent said they had not received a letter.

The amount of money wasted at Ottery St Mary Hospital was almost double of Sidmouth.

In total, 449 appointments were missed in 2014 and 2015 - racking up a bill of £39,063.

Over 60s were the highest age group responsible for no-shows - making up for 47.9 per cent of all missed appointments - equating to almost three times the number of any other age category.

The next highest were those under 19 making up 16.3 per cent. This was closely followed by patients between 20 and 29 years old making up 15.1 per cent and residents aged from 40 to 49 making up 10 per cent.

The second lowest group was the 30 to 39-year-olds making up 5.6 per cent, closely followed by the 50 to 59 category which made up 5.1 per cent of all no-shows.

Patients gave a number of reasons for why they did not show up at Sidmouth Victoria Hospital - 59.8 per cent claimed they had no advance warning while 10.3 per cent said it was down to social reasons. In total 1.9 per cent missed their appointment on medical advice and 2.3 per cent did not receive a letter.

Whereas at Ottery St Mary Hospital - 41 per cent claimed they were not given advance warning and 4.9 per cent said it was down to social reasons. Overall, 10.9 per cent missed their appointments on medical advice and 1.1 per cent either attended the wrong hospital or did not receive a letter.

The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust’s standard practice at the RD&E and most of its other community hospitals, including the Sidmouth and Ottery hospitals, is for clinic letters to include a specific department contact number so patients can call to cancel or rearrange appointments when needed.

When asked if the trust took measures to tackle the issues around missed appointments like sending reminder text messages, which has worked well in other areas, it said it did not, but used a telephone reminder service which called landline numbers.

It does not allow patients to cancel appointments via email either.

The trust’s overall ‘Do Not Attend’ (DNA) rate was 6.2 per cent - below the current national average of 8.2 per cent.

Since the launch of the trust’s appointment telephone reminder service in 2012, the DNA rate has fallen from 7.4 per cent.

A Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said utilising precious NHS resources for the best use of every patient was imperative for all NHS staff.

“We appreciate that people will have busy lives and things may happen outside of their control at short notice.

“However, missed appointments – or DNAs - have a significant impact on the smooth running of the hospital and can cause great inconvenience to other patients.

“We are always looking to improve what we do and that is why we have undertaken a great deal of work to ensure that slots which could have been used to treat other patients, for example in busy outpatient clinics, are not wasted by those who fail to attend appointments without notice.”

The spokesman said fortunately the vast majority of patients cancelled and rearranged their appointments.

He added: “However, a proportion do not and we would urge all patients with appointments and procedures who are planning not to attend or give notice to think of the impact this may have on other patients.”

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