Thousands of patients who cost the NHS millions of pounds every year by missing their hospital appointments have been slammed as ‘reprehensible’.
But an MP has also challenged hospitals to make it easier to book or cancel appointments by cutting-out admin errors. Graham Stringer, who represents Blackley and Broughton in Parliament, told the Manchester Evening News: “Clearly it is reprehensible for anyone to miss a hospital appointment.
“It’s costly to keep valuable medical staff waiting around.”
He added that sanctions – such as fining patients or putting them to the back of the queue – should be considered for patients who missed routine hospital appointments without good reason.
But Stringer pointed to examples where constituents had come to him because of errors made by hospital trusts over appointments.
In one case, a woman was given an appointment to check her broken arm after her cast was due to be removed – while others had got no answer when they tried to cancel or rearrange appointments.
Stringer said: “There is an awful lot of maladministration that goes on at hospitals and this needs to be stamped out.”
Kath Checkland, reader in health policy at Manchester University, said: "Missed hospital appointments cost the NHS in a number of ways.
“Highly paid hospital medical staff sit around doing nothing when the appointment could have been used to treat other patients.”
She added that Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) might still have to pay hospitals for missed appointments through the NHS's 'tariff' system of pricing.
But Dr Checkland said that patients should not be fined for missing appointments due to illness - one of the main reasons for non-attendance.
She added: "Hospitals have tried to address this by sending out text message reminders and this appears to have been a success in some cases.”
It’s estimated that missed appointments cost the NHS £41 million each year