PATIENTS who fail to turn up to medical appointments have cost central Lancashire hospitals more than £28m.
Figures, revealed after a Freedom of Information request to Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, show more than 280,000 people have missed their appointments in the past five years.
With each new appointment costing on average £153 and follow-ups costing £83 across the services, the LTH Trust, which runs Preston and Chorley hospitals, loses between £5m and £7m a year.
Despite costing less, missing follow-up appointments was the main source of the loss, with 212,432 people missing them, compared to 69,449 people not attending new appointments.
This meant over the past five years, the missed follow-up appointments cost LTH £17,631,856, with missed new appointments costing £10,625,697.
Karen Partington, chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We completely understand that sometimes people are unable to attend their appointment for whatever reason.
This issue costs our hospitals between £5m and £7m every yearKaren Partington
“However, this issue costs our hospitals between £5m and £7m every year, and in the current financial climate it is more important than ever that we work together with patients to make sure we’re using our resources as effectively as possible.
“As importantly, if we’re not able to re-allocate a clinic slot that someone can’t attend, then everyone waits longer for treatment.
“We’ve recently introduced a new text message reminder service to prompt people about their upcoming appointments and urge all patients to let us know as soon as they can if they won’t be coming to hospital, so we can reallocate their slot to someone else.”
Healthwatch Lancashire chief executive Gill Brown said the body, which champions patient care, was looking at why people missed appointments.
She said: “It is important that services understand the issues people have when they are not able to attend appointments.
“Healthwatch Lancashire has undertaken research with members of the public in Lancashire to understand the transport and access issues people face when attending their health and social care appointments, and consultations and will be sharing the findings with those who manage, run and commission services.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said earlier this year that, missed GP and hospital appointments cost the health service in England nearly £1bn annually.
He said he sympathised with the idea of charging patients for missing GP appointments, although there are no plans for this to happen. But he stressed people would have to “take personal responsibility” for NHS funds.
LTH’s finances were put in the spotlight in June last year, when health regulator Monitor said they had “serious concerns” about the Trust’s deficit for 2015-16 and appointed a financial improvement director to oversee the running of the trust. Ms Partington said than that it was “increasingly challenging to balance the books whilst demand grows, costs rise, and funding reduces.”