University Hospital of North Staffordshire rolls out appointment reminder text service
HOSPITAL patients are to be telephoned to remind them to turn up for medical appointments – in a new crackdown on NHS no-shows.
The dial-a-cure system starts next week after almost 45,000 patients missed their appointments at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in 12 months.
Managers say that accounts for just under 10 per cent of all outpatient appointments, wastes hundreds of thousands of pounds a year and makes waiting lists longer.
The new system will see patients receive an automated call a week before their appointment. A text message is then sent nearer the time.
Heart patients will be the first to receive the reminder calls from Monday. The service will then be extended to patients with ear, nose and throat, chest and eye conditions.
NHS watchdogs and patients today welcomed the crackdown on hospital no-shows.
George Hughes, aged 68, of Weston Coyney, who has had several heart attacks, said: "This is a belting idea.
"The new hospital is superb but I think one reason people don't turn up is the fear factor – they'd rather not know how ill they are.
"That is silly as the quicker the diagnosis, the better the chance of a cure.
"People's poor mobility could also be a reason but phoning patients the week before is an excellent initiative."
Councillor Colin Eastwood, chairman of Newcastle Borough Council's Health Scrutiny Committee, added: "If the hospital can cut these numbers it will save money and speed up appointments for everyone else.
"I would like to think people do show a responsible attitude to their appointments and only fail to show because they have simply forgotten, in which case a quick reminder call is ideal.
"Reasons for not arriving are not always the patients' fault and some may need support to get in."
Some doctors deliberately overbook clinics to allow for no-shows.
Latest hospital figures show 12,325 new appointments were missed out of the 140,504 new cases booked in between April last year and the end of March.
Of the 338,681 follow-up appointments, 32,433 were missed.
Outpatients directorate manager Steve Robbins said: "Missed appointments can be frustrating for staff and patients.
"I don't think many miss their appointment on purpose – it is easy to forget if it is booked far in advance.
"This new service will give patients a gentle reminder."