PATIENTS who fail to show up for their hospital out-patient appointments are costing the NHS in central Sussex nearly £6million a year.
The figure was revealed by Mid Sussex MP Nicholas Soames who believes there should be sanctions against patients who do not turn up.
In 2010/11, across the whole of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH), patients failed to attend a staggering 50,351 out-patient appointments, which could have been used by other people waiting for treatment.
In percentage terms the figure was 9 per cent of all appointments booked.
In a question to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in the House of Commons last Tuesday, Mr Soames said: “Does my Right Honourable Friend agree that this is extremely selfish, and would he propose sanctions on those who fail to show up?”
Mr Lansley replied: “I have no proposals for sanctions, but I commend to him and his trust the many mechanisms that are available, which they may know about, such as sending text messages to mobile phones.
“I have seen them in practice, and they do stimulate patients to attend their appointments and so reduce what has been an unacceptable level of non-attendance.”
BSUH, which runs the Princess Royal and Sussex County hospitals as well as Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre and the Sussex Eye Hospital, has put in place a number of measures to try to solve the problem.
They appear to be having an impact because the number of missed appointments fell by 500 in 2011/12 from 9 per cent to 8 per cent. In the out-patients’ department at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, hospital volunteers call patients a couple of days before their appointments to remind them. The scheme has been working for out-patient rheumatology, diabetes and maxillofacial appointments.The SMS text appointment reminders, which Mr Lansley referred to in the House of Commons, are also sent to patients.
The ‘My appointments’ section of the trust’s website allows patients to cancel or re-schedule an out-patient appointment online.
The trust’s website is at: www.bsuh.nhs.uk