Missed appointments are costing health chiefs on the Fylde coast a staggering £4m a year, The Gazette can today reveal.
As the trust that runs Blackpool Victoria Hospital faces mounting financial pressure, bosses say the thousands of patients who fail to show up for medical appointments are causing a ‘major issue’.
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has run up an £11m deficit already this year and the figure is set to hit £14m by April.
But in the past 12 months, almost 40,000 people missed appointments, at a cost to the taxpayer of up to £153 a time.
Patients who cannot make appointments are now being urged to call (01253) 953540 to help combat the issue.
Jane Rowley, head of performance, planning and contracting at the Trust, said: “Non-attendance is a major issue for the NHS as a whole as it impacts directly on waiting times and costs.
Patients who do not attend appointments have an enormous impact
“Patients who do not attend appointments have an enormous impact on the healthcare system in terms of cost and increased waiting times and significantly add to delays.”
While there are often valid reasons for missing appointments, bosses say it is vital patients let them know if they cannot make it.
Medical no-shows on the Fylde coast account for more than 6,000 hours of time – or around 40 weeks.
Staff are tasked with other work to fill the gaps left by the missed appointments.
Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “We need to make the best use possible of scarce resources.
“I know life can be complicated and things happen on a day-to-day basis but keeping medical appointments always matters.
“The space you take up could go to someone who needs an appointment urgently.”
Trust bosses said more than 27,500 missed appointments for follow-up treatment in the last 12 months. Each one costs the Trust £83.
New appointments, which cost an average of £153 each, were missed more than 11,500 times.
Ms Rowley added: “If patients know they no longer require an appointment or cannot attend for some reason, it is vital they inform us so the appointment can be offered to someone else.
“We understand that sometimes people are unable to attend their appointment for a number of reasons, including feeling better, transportation problems or personal reasons, but one of the reasons can be that they simply forgot.
“We recognise that patients have not always been able to get through to the appointments office and this may contribute to an appointment being missed or not cancelled. We are working hard to improve this service.
“This issue costs our hospitals more than £4m a year, and in the current financial climate it is more important than ever that we work with patients, clinical commissioning groups and GP s to make sure we’re using our resources as effectively as possible.”
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet secretary for Blackpool Council and chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “We all know that times are tight for public bodies.
“Budgets are being squeezed and we all have to take a close look at where savings can be made.
“Missed appointments are wasted money and this staggering figure should serve as a reminder to everybody how important it is to attend pre-arranged appointments, or at least to give notice if you can no longer make it.
“I’d urge people to think about the £150 that they can save the NHS when they realise they can no longer make an appointment and to make the simple phonecall to let the hospital know.”
Nationally, the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine estimates one in seven appointments are missed, more than half of which the organisation put down to ‘patient apathy’.
And health charity Developing Patient Partnerships said some 12.6m GP appointments are missed across the UK every year as well. Some London health authorities are now suggesting a £10 levy for missed appointments, in a bid to improve attendance rates.