THOUSANDS of patients failed to turn up for hospital appointments in Lothian last year – at a cost of nearly £18 million to the health service – new figures have revealed.
More than 2200 people were classified as “did not attends” (DNAs) five or more times during 2014-15, while 4648 people skipped three booked consultations, according to freedom of information statistics obtained by the Scottish Conservatives.
NHS Lothian had 149,622 no-shows up to August 2015, racking up an estimated bill of nearly £18m as each DNA costs the health service around £120.
Health bossess said it was “an enormous waste” of staff time and resources, as well as harmful to patients.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson said: “That is costing the NHS thousands of pounds, wreaking havoc with hospital planning, and, of course, potentially harming the health of the patient involved.”
Men living in deprived areas were among the most likely to skip appointments, while young people aged 15-29 were also at a high risk according to a report from NHS Health Scotland earlier this year.
The highest risk of missed appointments was among outpatients waiting for psychiatry, and drink and drug abuse also played a role.
Ms Davidson said: “We’ve been critical of the NHS in the past for cancelling appointments and procedures, so it’s only fair we do everything we can to make sure patient no-shows are limited too. We need to find ways to ensure people turn up at the appointments and stop showing contempt for doctors and nursing staff.”
Missed appointments are a headache for doctors in both hospitals and primary care settings, said a spokesperson for the British Medical Association.
The spokesperson said: “People often have genuine reasons for not attending but we would ask that they let the relevant clinic know so that the time can be offered to others.
“Every penny wasted as a result of a missed appointment is money that could be spent elsewhere in our NHS.”
Jim Crombie, chief officer of Acute Services at NHS Lothian, said: “Patients who fail to turn up to appointments have a significant impact on our services leading to an enormous waste of medical and nursing staff time.
“Patients who simply don’t turn up delay treatment for other people as well as themselves. We rely on them to get in touch with us if they cannot make an appointment.”
Schemes such as allowing patients to set up their follow-up appointments and focused bookings are being introduced to try to combat the problem, he added.