Doctors attack ‘simplistic’ claim that missed appointments cost the NHS £1 billion in a year

Patients in a waiting room at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, north London [April: Robert Stainforth/Alamy].

Apparently every missed NHS hospital appointment costs an average of £125 and we should feel ashamed of the eight million missed appointments in 2016-17, because NHS digital tells us so.

This Writer begs to disagree.

Why were these appointments missed? We have no information.

How many of the people who missed these appointments couldn’t get to them – perhaps because their health condition had deteriorated too far while they were waiting for their slot?

How many couldn’t make it due to poor transport connections?

How many didn’t know they had an appointment because they had not received proper notification?

There are many possible reasons.

And, let’s face it, £125 seems a bit steep.

But those are just my thoughts. What do actual doctors think? Let’s see:

Let’s call that another Tory NHS patient-blaming myth busted.

As the NHS struggles with budget cuts, soaring demand and staff shortages, almost £1bn is being wasted annually by patients missing appointments, figures reveal.

In response, England’s chief nurse has urged patients to cancel their NHS appointments in good time if they are not able to attend, in order to free up resources for those who need them.

The money wasted could fund 1m more cataract operations or 250,000 hip replacements, said Prof Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England.

Data released by NHS Digital revealed that in 2016/17 almost 8m hospital outpatient appointments were missed due to patients not attending, compared with 7.5m in 2015/16.

Source: Patients missing their appointments cost the NHS £1bn last year | Society | The Guardian

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  1. Fibro confused January 2, 2018 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    Had a chat with a consultant last year about missed appointments, they do differ depending what type of app how many staff involved. A GP appointment if you take everything into consideration staff building costs etc = £70’ish So a hospital app depending on what dept will cost more. I imagine £1,250 would involve a lot of staff and perhaps missed day surgery? not every app would cost that much. It is a huge problem though my own surgery average over 100 appointments missed a month, when demand is so high that’s a lot of wasted time as well as money.

  2. 61chrissterry January 2, 2018 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    While I do agree that patients who are aware of their appointments should cancel them if they cannot attend, but whether the costs attributed to them is correct is open to question.

    But should not the costs of appointments cancelled by the hospitals not also be taken into account and also the waiting times when you do attend.

    However, I and my wife have many hospital appointments in Sheffield and currently you cannot make future appointments when you have attended and your consultant asks you to make further appointments. For their system is that you have to wait for the appointments to be sent out via the post in letter form. This results in many of them not being convenient and therefore you have to ring to cancel. Yes, you are given another appointment, but this then produces a confirmation letter also stating that this is one of your two opportunities to cancel and then you will be referred back to your GP, but hospitals can cancel to their heart’s content.

    You cannot be late for your appointments but they can keep you waiting.

    Also when is a delay not a delay as defined by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, answer, when it is not longer than 20 minutes.

    That been said I would not be without our NHS, for no matter whatever faults do occur, the NHS is to be commended for what they do and achieve.

  3. diabolicalme January 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    I missed a GP appt last year as I was in psych hosp – I was told I was not allowed to leave the ward (I was under 72 hr section) but not to worry as (i) THEY would cancel it, and (ii) they would take care of my physical health care, neither happened (surprise surprise) ! I had a (concerned) phone call from my GP wondering why I hadn’t turned up, followed by a standard warning letter about DNAs from the surgery manager, including the ‘threat’ that if I DNA’d a 2nd time I wouldn’t be allowed to pre-book any appts! I’ve also had to cancel or rearrange several psych appts – each time I receive a standard DNA letter (copied to my GP, so will be in my records) even though they aren’t DNAs – I’ve complained about this but nothing has changed, they still seem to register as DNA??

  4. Dez January 3, 2018 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Just another overpaid NHS PR suit trying to be cleaver thinking up a number. The amount of time one gets with a GP is minimal and only one issue at a time. The fact a slot has been missed only means someone gets a milli second extra time with the GP so might actually secure a decent outcome rather than timewasting repeat visits to get to the bottom of ones medical issues. Its getting to where the GPs are better off located directly within the hospitals where one can get quick diagnosis using the hospital kit straight away instead of poncing about waiting for hospital appointments months waiting. The whole process is a shambles being screwed up by the hoorays for their privatisation plans under that Hunt.

  5. Florence January 3, 2018 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    The only facts that are reliable are the number of missed appointments and the relative cost of a hip replacement. The rest is totally meaningless.

    Those 8 million appts were made because someone needed treatment by the department they were to visit. If the NHS rationed OP care and reduced the number of patients treated (which is already happening) would those savings be actually spent on hip replacements? Of course not. The chief nursing officer must know that, so is simply following the govt agenda, with utter nonsense dressed up with a professional position. In this case, I think “Matron” should be roundly called out for this twaddle.

    As most OP patients are the same elderly cohort who are now being neglected by cuts to care, there needs to be a much better quality of research – how many missed appointments because they can’t afford transport, lack someone to help with the journey, or perhaps are already inpatients waiting to be released, etc?

    This appallingly shoddy bit of reported “research” is obviously yet another bit of nudge propaganda. I predict it will be used to justify fining people for non attendance or to insist on a returnable “deposit” when making an appointment. If anyone thinks that’s hyperbole, don’t forget we are already seeing the zombie policy of the dementia tax being sent for reanimation. Indeed perhaps they should also look into dementia without adequate care as a reason for missing appointments – something we know actually happens.

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