Missed appointments cost North Tees and Hartlepool NHS trust more than Â£700,000
Hartlepool's hospital trust has lost more than Â£700,000 this year due to thousands of patients not turning up to appointments, figures show.
Data from NHS England shows that, between January and June, 6,281 people either did not show up for an outpatient appointment at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, or arrived too late to be seen.
Health bosses say missed appointments have a huge impace on patient care.
With the NHS struggling for funds amid budget cuts and increased demand, the British Medical Association (BMA) said it was crucial appointments are not wasted while the health service is “under incredible stress”.
The average outpatient appointment costs the NHS £120, according to the latest resources cost data.
This means that the 6,281 missed sessions cost North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust around £754,000.
A spokesperson for the trust said: “Missed appointments have a huge impact on patient care, and our priority is always the safety of our patients. Missing an appointment means that you are not receiving the care you need, when you need it.
“We understand that sometimes people cannot make their original appointments - we would encourage them to get in touch to cancel or re-arrange as soon as possible. “That way we can make sure we see you as soon as we can, and we can reduce waiting times for others by offering your original appointment slot to another person who needs our care.”
At North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, out of the 58,672 outpatient appointments, 10% of patients did not show up.
The figures show 2,150 people failed to make their first appointment, 7% of all first attendances, while 4,131, or 11%, did not appear for a subsequent meeting.
Dr Robert Harwood, chairman of the BMA’s consultant committee, said: “It is important that no appointments are wasted at a time when the NHS is under incredible stress.
“We should not stigmatise patients who may for legitimate reasons be unable to attend.
“However, we do need the NHS to emphasise through clear publicity to the public that given the current unprecedented pressure, patients should make every possible effort to rearrange their appointment so that another person is able to receive treatment in their place.”
For health providers across England, almost 2.9 million appointments were missed between January and June, which cost the NHS around £350million.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “The NHS is short of funding, short of staff and faces ever rising demand for its services.
“With modern communication, the excuses for missed appointments are running out. There will always be some unforeseen circumstances but in most circumstances, it should be possible to cancel appointments.
“Our members across the NHS are doing their bit – many hospitals and other services send out email and text reminders, and increasingly patients can check, book and cancel appointments on line.
“We would all acknowledge that the NHS can do more and using technology better will make life easier both for patients and the service. But patients can also do their bit – making the NHS as efficient as it can be, is in everyone’s interest.”