Missed appointments: are you guilty?

We were miffed about the recent two-page spread article in a recent number of the Brent & Kilburn Times about the cost to the NHS of patients missing their hospital appointments for no good reason. On 26 May the newspaper finally published the BPV response to this article, which we believe emanated from the NHS. In case you did not see it, here is the text of the letter we sent. Let us know if you agree.

“Brent Patient Voice was dismayed to read Emma Youle’s double-page spread article claiming there is a huge £9.5 million bill for missed appointments at Northwick Park, St Mark’s and Central Middlesex Hospitals (issue of 5 May). There is no such bill. Just because the average outpatient appointment is estimated to cost £160, including overheads, it does not follow that a missed appointment leads to pointless expenditure of an equivalent sum.

Thankfully hospital appointments are arranged so that if an expected patient is not there the consultants simply see the next person in the queue. No real money is lost. Slight over-listing for ‘no shows’ is the bread and butter of all waiting systems every day in the NHS and elsewhere. Sadly there is an underlying “blame the patient” flavour to this story. It looks to have come from NHS sources. Four similar pieces in local newspapers about hospitals from the Royal Free to Queen’s Romford showed up on a quick internet search.

No-one supports patients who knowingly don’t show and don’t notify the hospital, but there can be many reasons for forgetting including the sudden onset of some other illness or a family crisis. The NHS might look to its own inefficiencies in mis-communicating about appointments. Everyone has a tale to tell. For example not so long ago I received a letter from a gastro-enterology consultant at a leading London hospital rebuking me for not attending a consultation with him on a supposed referral from a GP I had never met for a complaint I did not have. He did not reply when I wrote to point this out to him.

We would like to see your investigative resources employed in unearthing details of the new confidential NHS and Local Authority “Sustainability and Transformation Plan for NW London” which envisages the closure of 500 hospital beds in our area in order to save £1 billion to comply with Government orders. (Evening Standard 10th May). This at a time when hospitals are bursting at the seams, people wait longer and longer to see their GP and A&Es are missing their 4-hour treatment time targets by miles. It would be unbelievable if it weren’t true.

Robin Sharp CB

Chair, Brent Patient Voice”

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