SHOCK new figures have shown missed hospital appointments have cost £8.5m over the past four years.
Bosses at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust have urged patients to let them know if they cannot make an appointment so it can be offered to somebody else.
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The staggering figures come at a time when the trust is looking to save £40m over the next three years from its £260m budget.
Hospital chiefs say they have launched a reminder scheme to cut the cost of missed appointments and it is seeing the figures go down.
The total cost of patient did not attends (DNAs) for outpatient appointments between 2008 and October last year is £7,557,582.46
Meanwhile, the cost of patient cancellations and DNAs for procedures for the same period is £970,592.
That makes the total cost of cancelled and missed appointments a whopping £8,528,174.
The trust runs both the University Hospital of Hartlepool, in Holdforth Road, and the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, and the figures cover both sites.
The DNAs figures are the lowest they have ever been, but trust bosses have urged people to get in touch if they cannot make an appointment.
Health chiefs say that if one person does not turn up for an appointment then someone else in need is missing out.
To help combat the problem, the trust recently launched a telephone appointment reminder system, with a phone call from NHS Direct about a week before the outpatient appointment.
Julie Gillon, director of operations and performance at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It is pleasing to see that our DNA rates are the lowest they have ever been.
“We have had a reminder system in place for new outpatient appointments since 2006 and we introduced an automated reminder system for follow up appointments in June last year.
“It would appear that the reminder system has been very successful in reducing missed appointments and we continue to work hard to drive these figures down.
“We urge all patients to call and let us know if they can’t make their appointment so that it can be offered to another patient.
“We understand that sometimes patients are unable to make their hospital appointments.
“However, a missed hospital appointment means the patient might not get the treatment they need and that someone else will have to wait longer for their appointment.”
The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust needs to save £40m over the next three years from its £260m budget.
As part of the “£40m Challenge” every money-saving possibility will be explored.
It hopes to make the savings by transforming services, reducing beds, reducing energy bills, building the new hospital and bringing in more income.
Savings worth £16.5m will be made this year by changing the procurement process and making management staff cuts, as previously reported.