Revealed: Whittington Hospital’s huge bill for missed appointments last year

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:28 25 April 2016

Missed appointments: The Whittington Hospital (Picture: Nigel Sutton)

Missed appointments: The Whittington Hospital (Picture: Nigel Sutton)

© Nigel Sutton

Patients who miss appointments at the Whittington Hospital are costing the cash-strapped NHS £4.6million a year and increasing waiting times for others, a Gazette investigation can reveal.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt: 'Sympathises' with the idea of charging for missing appointments (Picture: PA Wire)Health secretary Jeremy Hunt: 'Sympathises' with the idea of charging for missing appointments (Picture: PA Wire)

The staggering scale of time and money wasted by patients who fail to turn up at the Whittington has been uncovered using a Freedom of Information request.

Every day 93 people do not attend routine outpatient appointments and do not contact the hospital to cancel, costing an average of £135 for every no-show.

The daily loss to the hospital is almost £15,000 and the millions lost annually would pay the salaries of about 158 nurses.

"Financially the cost of each missed session can vary depending on the nature of the appointment but there is also a cost to the patient in terms of their overall health."

Carol Gillen, hospital chief exec

Whittington chief Carol Gillen appealed for the public’s help to tackle the issue.

“We know patients may miss their appointments for a number of reasons,” she said.

“Financially the cost of each missed session can vary depending on the nature of the appointment but there is also a cost to the patient in terms of their overall health.

The Whittington Hospital in Archway (Picture: Nigel Sutton)The Whittington Hospital in Archway (Picture: Nigel Sutton)

“Missing an appointment could mean missing out on important medical treatment.”

The hospital says it makes it as easy as possible for patients to attend appointments, including arranging for interpreters and patient transport where necessary.

Text messages are also sent to remind people about upcoming consultations and empty slots can be filled at short notice if the hospital is aware a patient cannot attend.

How does the Whittington compare with other hospitals?

About one in 10 hospital outpatient appointments nationally are missed annually in England, costing the NHS £225million a year.

Non-attendance at the Whittington was 13.3 per cent, slightly lower than the 15.6 per cent rate at Homerton Hospital in neighbouring Hackney.

The number of missed appointments is on the rise, up 5% from 2012-13 to 2014-15.

But health chiefs say a vast number of appointments are missed simply because people forget to turn up.

Some of the worst-hit practice areas at the Whittington include neurology, which deals with disorders of the nervous system, nephrology, which deals with kidney disorders, physiotherapy and dietetics.

As well as wasting money, missed appointments drive up waiting times for others.

“Each missed appointment means that someone else is missing out on the chance to receive medical care at an earlier stage,” said Ms Gillen.

“If you need to cancel or rearrange you can either e-mail or call us using the contact details provided on appointment letters, and you can also come to the hospital in person to cancel.”

The Whittington has a dedicated appointments team that can be contacted on 020 7288 5511 from Monday to Friday between the hours of 8.30am and 5.30pm.

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