Welsh Conservatives will today call for a ‘fresh approach’ from the Welsh Government in dealing with missed NHS appointments.
In a National Assembly debate the group will highlight the huge costs associated with the issue and put forward innovative solutions for discussion.
It is estimated that one in ten hospital appointments are missed and, according to figures obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, missed hospital appointments cost the NHS at least 67 million pounds between 2007/08 and 2012/13 (figures attached).
Figures provided do not cover all health boards and Aneurin Bevan, Powys and Cardiff and Vale were unable to offer any relevant statistics.
Betsi Cadwaldr UHB estimates that each outpatient appointment costs the health board up to 150 pounds.
One in eight people in Wales remain on an NHS waiting list. According to the latest statistics, 385,521 people were waiting for the start of their treatment. Over 6,000 had been waiting for more than 36 weeks.
In England, the Department for Health has supported moves by hospitals to provide innovative solutions to prevent appointments being missed. These can include text message reminders for patients (a scheme already implemented in North Wales) and posters highlighting the problem within hospitals and GP surgeries.
A 2003 survey of GP practices by ‘Developing Patient Partnerships’ found that 68 per cent of practices supported charging for missed appointments and suggests that around half a million GP appointments are missed in Wales each year. A King’s Fund report - published in April 2013 - concluded that charging for missed appointments - or going to A&E when unnecessary - would have support from the public.
The possibility of a small charge for missed appointments will be put forward for long-term discussion in today’s debate.
Welsh Conservatives have previously called for a cancer treatments fund to be introduced in Wales, providing increased access to cancer drugs, increased access to other treatments, such as CyberKnife radiotherapy, and assistance in the expansion of mobile cancer treatment centres.
The five million pounds cost of this fund is a fraction of the money spent by health boards dealing with missed appointments every year.
Shadow Minister for Health, Darren Millar AM, will lead today’s debate and put forward a number of potential solutions for debate and discussion.
“Missed appointments are a very real and costly problem for the Welsh NHS and it’s time for a fully informed national debate on the issue.
“People who don’t turn up for their agreed appointments causes delays for other patients, wastes the time of hardworking clinicians, and cost the NHS millions every year.
“Every penny wasted as a result of a missed appointment is money that could be spent elsewhere in our NHS – whether that be on cancer, stroke or cardiac care - and could make a huge difference for patients.
“Whether it’s improved communication methods or a charge to encourage positive behaviour, it’s vital that we start a public debate on this issue.”