We can’t treat empty seats

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Thousands of patients every year are failing to keep their outpatient appointments at hospitals within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT), wasting enormous amounts of the health budget and having a detrimental impact on waiting times.

The Northern Trust is appealing to patients to let them know if they cannot attend their outpatient appointment. Did not attend (DNA) figures show that in 2012/2013, 4,520 patients failed to turn up for their appointments at a Northern Trust facility.

Did not attend (DNA), are patients who do not attend for a pre-arranged appointment and have not given prior notice to cancel that appointment. The Trust has made significant headway in the last two years in reducing DNA’s by introducing a text messaging service to remind outpatients of their hospital appointments. This has resulted in fewer DNAs and allowed the Trust to re-allocate appointments helping the Trust to reduce waiting lists and see patients quicker.

Calum MacLeod, Interim Medical Director, said: “If you do not let us know that you are unable to attend we cannot re-allocate your appointment to someone else.

“If we know in advance that you cannot attend your appointment we can offer your appointment to another patient who is currently on our waiting list.

The DNA rate impacts directly on how long patients wait to be seen. If such a high proportion of outpatient slots were not lost on patients who do not attend, sometimes repeatedly, waits for first outpatient appointments would reduce.

“It’s really important that you try to attend your hospital appointment. If you have been asked to come and see us at the hospital it is because your doctor thinks you should see a specialist about your health and you may need some important treatment.”