Missed Appointments Cost the NHS £745 Million Annually

6th May, 2014
Read time: 2 minutes

How much are missed appointments costing you?

Did Not Attend (DNA) rates are a major issue within the NHS and every hospital and trust would like to reduce theirs to the lowest possible figure. In a recent report by the BBC, the NHS confirmed that £745 million was lost between 2012-2013 due to DNAs. The national average DNA rate stands at 7.3% or 6.8 million appointments per annum. What is your DNA rate and how much are missed appointments costing you?

DNAs occur when the hospital has no prior knowledge that a patient is going to miss their appointment, causing wasted work, delays and additional costs for doctors, medical teams and administration staff, along with the fact that another patient could have been seen instead. An appointment could have been saved or reallocated if the patient had been reminded.

Hospitals and trusts currently use several methods to remind patients about their appointments such as direct mail, text messages and automated or manual outbound calling. There are benefits to each method, but also inherent disadvantages of which time and cost are two of the biggest factors.

Traditionally hospitals have used direct mail for appointment reminders, as each patient should have a home address that the post service can deliver a letter to. However this is a high cost solution and very time consuming for staff, not the ideal combination when sending out potentially thousands of letters a week.

Manual outbound calling using staff is an effective way of reminding patients due to the speed of calling, and any available slots can immediately be reutilised. However, with large numbers of patients to call, this is a staff-intensive, expensive option, particularly when budgets are under increasing strain.

The difficulty of the methods mentioned above comes from not having a system that is flexible enough to adapt to the trust or hospital's needs whilst retaining a simple user interface from an administrative viewpoint.

Automated outbound calling and text messages combine the time-saving efficiencies of technology with the comparatively low cost per reminder which allows patients to be contacted on a mass scale. It also allows patients to cancel their appointment slot, which can then be reutilised to benefit another patient who is on the waiting list.

Back to the question, how much are missed appointments costing you? The University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) calculated that each DNA costs them £159 and their DNA rate was 9.44%. Using an automated reminder solution had an immediate impact because in just two weeks, not only did missed appointments drop by 13%, (DNA rates reduced to 8.22%), but payback was achieved within that timescale.

Every day the hospital makes between 2,250-2,500 calls and sends 500 text messages to remind patients, with the resulting saving measured at over £1million since its installation in February 2013.

The solution will enable improvements across departments and a rollout plan is underway across the hospital, in addition to a strategy to deploy a full patient appointment booking, reminder and rebooking suite of solutions specifically designed for the health organisations to empower hospitals to maximise available appointment slots.

Netcall believes the role of hospitals and trusts is to provide the best level of care to patients and in order to do this staff need access to tools that can aid them in their daily tasks, enabling them to concentrate on patients, rather than on time-consuming processes that eat into their daily working hours.

Click here to view the UNHS video case study.

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