BLACKPOOL’S hospitals are ahead of the game when it comes to the problem of patients missing appointments.
Nationally, one in 10 health appointments - a total of 5.5 million - were missed last year, costing the NHS millions of pounds and delaying treatment for other patients, figures suggest.
Ministers are now calling for hospitals to use more innovative solutions to tackle the issue - such as text message reminders or even using Skype to see patients who do not need a physical examination.
And on the Fylde coast, hospital bosses hope a pilot scheme they introduced at the end of May, will not only cut number of missed appointments and slash waiting times, but will save money too.
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is piloting the Chronos appointment confirmation service, which uses a mixture of agent calls and automated calls to remind patients of their appointment a few days before and gives them chance to re-arrange or cancel. Cancelled slots can then be re-allocated to other waiting patients.
When the system was tried at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, there was a 43 per cent reduction in DNA (Did Not Attend) rates - leading to an extra 4,300 appointments and saving £579,000.
Last year at the Blackpool Trust - according to the latest available figures - there were 28,000 wasted appointment slots.
Mark Chapman, director of scheduled care, said: “By using the Chronos service, the trust aims to drive down its DNA rates still further which it hopes will maximise efficiencies, reduce patient waiting times and generate cost savings which can be reinvested in patient care.”
Health Minister Simon Burns added: “It is important people realise not turning up for their agreed appointments, means other patients’ care might be delayed and doctors’ and nurses’ time could be wasted, costing taxpayers money.
“Patients often have genuine reasons to miss an appointment, but it can have a big impact on the care we can offer to other patients.
“I’m glad to see the NHS is increasingly using simple ideas such as texting their patients before an appointment or seeing them via Skype.”