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Revealed: Huge bill for missed appointments at Northwick Park and Central Middlesex hospitals

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 May 2016

Our investigation has revealed the staggering scale of missed appointments at local hospitals. Graphic: Patrick Baker/Archant

Our investigation has revealed the staggering scale of missed appointments at local hospitals. Graphic: Patrick Baker/Archant

Archant

Northwick Park, St Mark’s and Central Middlesex hospitals are losing the equivalent of 208 nurses’ salaries every year because of people who don’t turn up for their appointments. EMMA YOULE finds out how the figures compare with the rest of the UK – and asks what can be done about the problem

Missed appointments: Northwick Park HospitalMissed appointments: Northwick Park Hospital

Patients who miss appointments at hospitals serving Brent are costing the cash-strapped NHS £9.5million a year, a Times investigation can reveal.

The huge scale of time and money wasted by patients who forget to turn up at Northwick Park, Central Middlesex and St Mark’s hospitals has been uncovered using a Freedom of Information request.

Every day 163 people miss routine outpatient appointments and do not contact the north west London hospitals to cancel, costing £160 for every no show.

The bill to the hospitals is a staggering £26,000 a day and the millions wasted annually would pay the salaries of 208 nurses every year.

Dr Ethie Kong, chair of Brent Clinical Commissioning Group, has appealed for the public's help to tackle the issueDr Ethie Kong, chair of Brent Clinical Commissioning Group, has appealed for the public's help to tackle the issue

A spokesman for London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the hospitals, said: “People will often have genuine reasons for missing an appointment, but this can have a significant impact on NHS services.

“People who fail to cancel their appointments will delay the care provided to other patients and waste the time of doctors and nurses, which in turn costs the NHS money.”

The NHS is treating the issue seriously as missed appointments cost the health service at least £225million every year and have a knock-on effect on patient care.

The hospital trust says it is working to improve administration systems and is considering using technology, such as text message and automated-voice reminders, to reduce non-attendance.

How do local hospitals perform compared to others in London?

About one in 10 hospital outpatient appointments nationally are missed every year.

The Times looked at data from 11 hospitals in north and east London.

We found that all had non-attendance rates higher than 10 per cent.

At University College London Hospital in Camden, the rate was 10.5 per cent.

The figure at London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Northwick Park, Central Middlesex and St Mark’s Hospitals, was 16 per cent.

The number of missed appointments is also on the rise.

All of the local hospitals, except for Central Middlesex, showed lower rates of attendance in 2014-15 than in the two previous years.

But the fault is not always the patients’, said one Northwick Park Hospital patient.

The 61-year-old retired housing officer from Cricklewood, who asked not to be named, missed an appointment because she was not informed about it.

The first she knew was when a letter arrived in the post chastising her for not turning up.

“I never got an appointment letter,” she said. “I’m sure it’s an error on their behalf because I have never missed an appointment in my life. The people at the hospital know me and joke ‘Why don’t you get a bed here’ because I’m always up and down there. So I was really upset.”

Health chiefs say a vast number of people simply forget to turn up for appointments.

This forces hospitals to overbook clinics and can lead to longer waiting times for other patients.

Brent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which oversees healthcare in the borough, called on the public to take the issue seriously.

Dr Ethie Kong, chair of Brent CCG, said: “If you can’t make it, do contact the relevant people or hospital department to cancel the appointment.

“If you don’t, you will delay care for other people while wasting staff time as well as scarce NHS resources.”

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