Patient no-shows: Your comments

Doctor in surgery. Pic: Astier/SPL Missed appointments cost millions

Missed appointments cost the NHS more than £600m a year. But as well as the cost and inconvenience some patients are risking their lives by not attending, argues Dr Jacqui Phillips in this week's Scrubbing Up.

Dr Phillips, legal adviser at the MDU says doctors should chase patients who do not attend, or face complaints.

BBC News website readers have sent their comments.

Your comments

My dentist has a system that texts my mobile the day before my appointments. It works as a reminder, but also it gives me the exact time of my appointment on my phone. Even if you don't have a mobile TXT messages are read out to you over the landline automatically by BT. Mind you, at least I can get an appointment at my dentist. The doctor - they've just installed a phone answering system that is designed to make you go away in frustration. I'm sure their DNA (did not attend) levels will fall as they will have fewer appointments overall.

John, Glos

I booked a doctor's appointment for Wednesday morning using the online system. I put the appointment in my phone calendar and I had a friend staying at the time who also noted the appointment. I turned up to be told that in fact the appointment was for Friday morning. I turned up again this morning to be told there was no appointment for Friday either and that I had had no appointments booked for several months. There is clearly a glitch in their online system but I was made to feel that I was lying or incompetent and was told my only option was to wait until the end of the morning surgery to see if anyone could fit me in. Having taken time off work twice already I could not do this.

Susan, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Only I am responsible for my health. I pay taxes and insurance premiums so that the medical profession can help me when I need help, but in my opinion they have no duty other than to act with reasonable professionalism and care. I can't imagine why a doctor should be liable for a no-show and we neither need, nor want, another nanny.

Stuart, Chichester

Please bear in mind - it is not always the patient's fault. My father (88) had an ophthalmology appointment in October. Transport was booked but never turned up. I tried to find out what had happened, but the hospital where he was recovering from illness assured me that they had booked the transport, whereas the ambulance service told me they had never received the booking - one person's word against another's.

CMM, London

"No-shows" are rude, inconsiderate and I would certainly not defend them, but the claims about their cost seem dubious in the extreme. The calculations seem to assume that, if a patient doesn't show, NHS staff will twiddle their thumbs for the length of the missed appointment. Often appointments are behind schedule anyway and a no-show allows them to get back on time; indeed I am sure some clinics schedule appointments on the assumption of no-shows and would struggle to cope if all patients turned up. And even if the next patient is not ready to be seen, staff can usually catch up with paperwork.

Mark, Manchester

I received a letter to say that I had missed an appointment. Never knew I had an appointment. This has happened twice. Wished they had let me know, would have saved me a lot of time. Are the mistakes by the hospitals included in this count of missed appointments.

Bezza, Guildford

I am not sure what the answer is. There should be someone who should chase up missed appointments if only to make the person realise how important it was for them to just ring and cancel if they don't want to keep the appointment. My osteopath used to ring me a few days before my appointment to make sure I had remembered as sometimes I did forget to mark it on the calendar. I think perhaps some people who do not want the appointment maybe are embarrassed to cancel as they do not want to explain away their reasons? Could there be a automated phone system whereby people can cancel an appointment but know beforehand it will be a "machine" they are talking to? My preferred method would be to get a phone reminder a few days before.

Suzie, Berkshire

My Dad has dementia and accordingly his medical notes show that his daughter should be contacted regarding appointments because otherwise he will forget all about them. Despite this, the medical world invariably contact him via phone and letter. He then forgets, not surprisingly. Time and time again we complain to the surgery/hospital who, eventually, concede that they shouldn't have contacted him. So I have to ask, how many appointments are missed because of NHS errors such as this? Surely they, of all people, should understand the implications of dealing with patients with memory problems.

Kit, Essex

I'm a doctor, and whilst it is awful that a missed appointment may risk the patient's life, patients have capacity to make appointments and then either remember it and go or not go. The doctor should NOT have the responsibility to chase the patient. We are not parents or guardians, instead we are providing a service. Those patients who do not have capacity will have had another make the appointment (e.g. a guardian) and therefore it is the guardians responsibilty. People should take responsibility for their health and themselves, it should not be a 'nanny state'. In saying that we as doctors and other healthcare professionals have a responsibilty to educate patients about these things.

Dr M, currently in Malawi

All well and good. However, most staff in GP practices are in reality very rude and patronising to people who have missed appointments, even when the fault is theirs. I had a very snippy lecture about the importance of keeping to my appointment time, when I had been sitting in the waiting room for 30 mins due to her colleague not bothering to register my arrival. I was then made to wait another hour before the GP could "squeeze" me into his schedule.

Jan, Edinburgh

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