University Hospital of North Staffordshire's appointments system under review after re-scheduling fiasco
A HOSPITAL has launched an investigation into why patients are repeatedly having their appointment times changed when they need to see specialists.
Officials at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) admit growing numbers of people are being 'messed around' by the alterations.
One patient received more than 10 letters in a single week, saying their slot had been re-scheduled.
And some others were told about their new appointments at outpatient departments so late they had already booked days off work or made childcare arrangements to get to their original bookings.
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Even a senior executive at the trust has had his own appointment moved at the last minute.
Health campaigners fear the issue could be adding to the huge numbers who fail to show for consultations.
And this is costing the hospital large sums in wasted clinic time, as well as contributing to delays.
Now the complex has begun an investigation to find out why the serial appointment changes are happening.
Senior doctors, as well as clerical staff, who book patients into clinics and notify them of their appointments will be asked for their views.
Hundreds of the near-300,000 people attending the hospital's outpatients centre each year are affected by the changes, which can leave their appointments re-scheduled by as little as an hour either side of their initial booking time.
UHNS chief operating officer Mark Mould said: "At least we know the problem is not showing any favouritism one way or another as I have had an appointment changed."
Chief executive Julia Bridgewater, pictured below left, added: "We must do more to stop this happening. Besides needlessly inconveniencing people, it undermines the reputation of the hospital."
It is estimated up to one in 10 people fail to turn up for appointments.
In response, the trust has started sending people automated telephone calls a week before they are due to attend, followed by a reminder text message nearer the time.
Pressure group North Staffordshire Healthwatch warned the problem showed the hospital's administration was being 'stretched to breaking point'.
Co-ordinator Ian Syme said: "People are left so confused, it is no wonder they fail to show and resources get wasted. It often happens when doctors get diverted to cope with emergencies."