Big improvements have been recorded in the number of people across Forth Valley failing to turn up for outpatient appointments in four clinical areas, thanks to a new telephone reminder service. Now the scheme is set to be extended and will involve NHS 24 contacting patients by phone 8 days before their appointment to remind them of the details.
The pilot scheme was conducted in gynaecology, paediatrics, gastroenterology and oral maxillofacial. Results showed that the number of missed appointments in outpatient paediatrics, which had become as high as one in four, has now fallen to one in six, and across the specialities as a whole, the rate reduction for the pilot in DNA’s (Did Not Attends) was 27%. In all, cancelled or rescheduled appointments provided an increase in clinic capacity of 237 slots which were then offered to other patients.
NHS Forth Valley Project Manager Ann Love said: “We understand that people have very busy lives and that fitting in hospital appointments around this can be challenging. However the amount of missed appointments costs the NHS millions across Scotland, and I think that this project will help us save money for NHS Forth Valley which we could use to reduce waiting times for both outpatient and inpatient consultations and procedures.”
Fifteen specialities including ophthalmology, neurology and orthopaedics will be targeted in the extended NHS 24 patient reminder scheme. This is expected to free up around 4,500 appointments a year which can then be allocated to other people.
Three other health boards – NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Grampian, are now working towards using the NHS 24 Patient Reminder Service. Whilst most reminders in Forth Valley are made by NHS 24 call operators, the use of automated messages or SMS text could be adopted in future.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “It is every patient’s responsibility to keep their appointments but we also recognise that the NHS has a role to play in helping to make appointments convenient to patients. The reminders have already achieved great results and with more Health Boards set to trial them we can hope to see a better service for patients and a reduction in NHS time wasted.”
Any patient who changes their address or telephone number should inform their GP as soon as possible to ensure that their correct contact details are on file.
Patients who know they cannot attend a planned appointment are asked to give the hospital as much notice as possible which will allow other patients to be seen earlier. The number to call if you wish to re-schedule or cancel is 01324 566249. Should the number be busy, you can e mail email@example.com
NHS Forth Valley
Castle Business Park
t - 01786 463031