MISSED hospital appointments are costing Winchester’s health trust thousands of pounds every month, the Hampshire Chronicle can reveal.
It has emerged that around one-in-10 appointments were missed at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, with 18,000 no-shows by patients since August last year.
Patients failing to turn up also mean that other patients are likely to have their treatment delayed, said the hospital.
Figures show the RHCH made 258,000 appointments since August 2011, and around 18,060 of those were missed.
Each missed appointment is estimated to cost the hospital trust between £60 to £120, which is based on Government tariffs set for outpatient attendances, and takes into account other factors including staffing costs.
It also emerged that Winchester patients are slightly more likely to miss follow-up sessions at seven per cent, compared with 6.5 per cent for initial consultations.
In the same period, Basingstoke Hospital made just over 354,000 outpatient appointments, with around 25,700 of these missed.
Patients at Basingstoke are also slightly more likely to attend new appointments, with around six per cent missing their initial appointment, compared with eight per cent not turning up for follow-up sessions.
Across hospitals in Winchester, Basingstoke, and Andover — all of which are now run by Hampshire Hospitals’ NHS Foundation Trust (HHNFT) — the cost of missed appointments since August last year amounts to at least £1.5million.
Mary Edwards, chief executive of HHNFT, said: “It is disappointing when people don’t attend their appointments because the time could be offered to another patient who needs it.
“However, we recognise there will sometimes be reasons why patients can’t attend. It would be helpful if patients could let us know.
“We are looking into a variety of ways to remind patients about their appointments in the future, as well as seeking to take more of our services out into the community, to make it easier for patients to access them.
“Sometimes patients, particularly if they have appointments booked months in advance, can forget all about them. “We use texts and emails to remind patients about their appointments.”
Mrs Edwards said a new outpatients department in the Burrell wing due at the RHCH — set to open early in 2013 — would provide a more pleasant environment in future.
Health chiefs say they are looking at different ways to tackle the number of missed appointments as encouraged by Government.
Newham University Hospital in London, for example, has launched a pilot scheme in which diabetes patients who do not need a physical examination are seen via Skype.
To let the RHCH know about appointments which cannot be met, call the main reception on 01962 863535.