Missed hospital checks in Devon cost NHS millions

image captionAn automated service sends out reminders to patients attending check ups at Derriford Hospital

Missed hospital appointments in Devon cost the NHS millions of pounds in the last financial year, figures show.

Research by BBC South West has revealed that people missed 81,000 appointments.

The findings showed that just under 27,000 appointments were not kept at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and 25,000 were missed at Torbay Hospital.

Some hospitals are now giving patients more flexibility in location, date and time of appointments to help boost attendance.

According to Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, each missed appointment can cost between £60 to £120 in lost revenue, resulting in millions of pounds over a year.

Hospitals plan their budget on how many patients they will see and then pay for staff, equipment, lighting and heating to run the clinics.

They can then claim the money back from their primary care trust for each patient visit.

'Taking responsibility'

However, as well as not being able to claim this back if the patient fails to attend, the missed appointments result in increased waiting lists.

Plymouth Primary Care Trust, which saw more than 17,000 missed appointments last year, has introduced a system which sends outs and tracks appointments.

Neil Parsons, manager of the Sentinel System, said: "We are making it easier for patients to get access to phone up and choose their appointments and to go on and choose a hospital that may be nearer to them.

"It's about the health service responding to patients' needs but it's also about patients taking responsibility."

Mr Parsons said that Derriford Hospital had had success with an automated service which sends out patient reminders in the run up to appointments.

Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, which runs North Devon District Hospital where more than 9,000 appointments were missed last year, is also planning to pilot a reminder system in the new year.

Patient Access General Manager, Sharon Bates, said the trial was as a result of monitoring the 'Did Not Attend' (DNA) rates.

"We can have as many as 20,000 missed appointments a year," she said.

"We have been asking patients how they would prefer to have their appointments confirmed - automated phone and texting messages and combination of speaking to a person."

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