£6 million cost to NHS of Doncaster hospital no-shows

Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Patients who fail to show up for appointments at Doncaster's hospitals cost the NHS £6 million a year, bosses have revealed.

Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust, which run hospitals including the Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Bassetllaw Hospital and the Montagu Hospital in Mexbrough has around 55,000 patients not attending appointments each year.

Now the NHS locally is launching a campaign to slash the figures.

Bosses at have calculated the cost based on the time which is lost through staff and equipment costs.

They estimate a cost of around £6 million. This is a broad calculation and is not exact, but is based on factors such as specialist staff and equipment, which while not used will still incur a cost.

Mr Sewa Singh, Medical Director at the Trust, said: “It’s very important that people attend appointments at the hospital, so that illnesses can be detected and treated quickly, which leads to better recovery. If you cannot attend, please contact the hospital so your appointment can be rearranged at a more suitable time. Importantly, this allows another patient to be seen.”

Dr David Crichton, Chair of NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Please try not to miss medical appointments – it’s not fair to other patients who are waiting to be seen or the health staff who want to help you.

"If you are given an NHS appointment, please keep it or let us know if your plans change, giving enough time for someone else to use it. Keeping appointments in all areas of the NHS, from doctors’ surgeries to hospitals, helps keep waiting times down and also helps the money in the NHS go further.”

To put this in perspective, when the Doncaster Cancer Detection Trust launched an appeal to raise money for a new scanner at the Doncaser Royal infirmary in 2015, it was to raise £1 million to pay for it. The cost of the missed appointments is the equivalent to six scanner appeals.

Earlier this year it was reported that no-shows had led to the NHS missing its targets for getting people seen and treated for cancer inside a nationally time scale.

Figures revealed by the NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group had shown targets were missed for the number of patients receiving an outpatient appointment after a GP referral, and the number receiving their first treatment after referral or screening.

Bosses said that March almost half of the ‘two week wait’ breaches were the result of patients cancelling appointments or failing to turn up.

Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group said in that March 2017 there were 95 breaches of the two-week wait target. Of those, 45 were due to patients missing appointments.

If the patients had attended their appointments the CCG would have met its targets.

Patients urged to cancel if unable to attend

Healthcare professionals in Doncaster are reminding patients to cancel hospital appointments if they are unable to attend.

Nationally, around one in every 10 appointments made are missed every year in England, costing the health service millions of pounds. Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals is within the top 25 per cent of all trusts in the country for patients not attending appointments, annually recording more 50,000 missed dates, a number which equates to more than 140 a day.

Emma Challans, deputy chief operating officer at the trust, said: “Making sure you attend your hospital appointments, or rescheduling if it is not possible, is vitally important.

“Often cancelled without prior notice, missed appointments have a knock-on effect within the organisation, taking up time within clinics which could be used to see, care for, and treat other patients.”

In order to address the problem, DBTH are working with NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group and HealthWatch Doncaster to speak with local residents to understand some of the reasons why people do not attend some local hospital appointments.

The findings from this work will be fed into a project team which is made up from representatives from each organisation, with recommended actions taken forward in order to reduce the number of missed appointments in the future.

Ms Challans added: “This piece of work will help inform the local NHS why we see such volume of patients not attending, as well as how we can improve in future. Reducing the amount of missed appointments will have a hugely positive impact on services for people in Doncaster, Bassetlaw and beyond, freeing up crucial clinic time for patients, effectively meaning quicker access to care and treatment.”

At Doncaster Royal Infirmary, the ophthalmology service has one of the highest non-attendance rates with above 8,000 missed appointments each year. To help understand why, over the coming weeks visitors to the Fred and Ann Green Eye Centre will be asked for feedback on missed appointments and how the Trust can assist patients in cancelling or rearranging appointments.

HealthWatch Doncaster will also be heading out into communities to speak to local people in order to find out more, alternatively you can help the NHS by taking this short survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/missedhospitalappointments

Andrew Goodall, Chief Operating Officer at Healthwatch Doncaster, said: “We are excited to get out and about talking to people in Doncaster and its surrounding areas to understand why people miss their appointments, and what we can do to improve the situation. With only nine question, the survey should only take a few minutes to complete and will help your local NHS to minimise the number of people not attending appointments, improving services for the benefit of everybody.”

The survey will run from late October to early December.

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