A poll* of 11,780 over 50s found that nearly two fifths with an ongoing medical condition could benefit from extra help to manage visits to the hospital, clinic or GP.
Missed appointments cost the NHS and taxpayers millions of pounds every year**, as resources are wasted and those who fail to turn up, for whatever reason, have to reschedule. Other patients suffer, as waiting times are lengthened by constant rescheduling.
The Saga poll, carried out by Populus, reveals that 13% of Saga customers with regular medical appointments find it ‘hard’ to manage them. Regionally, almost a quarter of over 50s in the north-east have missed an appointment by accident, more than anywhere else in the UK.
Today, Saga calls for a better use of technology, to focus more resources on preventing people from missing their appointments, including:
• Greater use of email and text alerts as appointment reminders
• More widespread use of appointment/consultation systems that let patients check, book and cancel at their own convenience
• More provision for ordering repeat medication online
• Expansion of telecare and telehealth services that let patients monitor their health at home and get medical advice without the inconvenience of travelling to their surgery.
Paul Green, Saga director of communications, commented: “Many over 50s suffering ongoing medical conditions have numerous appointments with GPs and a variety of specialists, so it’s no wonder that many accidentally fail to keep them.
“It seems reasonable to suggest that the government and National Health Service should look at how it can help people keep appointments, by using technology to make life a little easier.”
Official statistics reveal that more than 12 million doctor’s appointments were missed in England over the past year, costing in excess of £160million. Nearly seven million outpatient hospital appointments were missed over the same period, costing an average of £108 per appointment.** As well as the financial burden it puts the NHS under, missed appointments can jeopardise patient treatment starting within 18 weeks of a referral, according to the government***.
*Populus interviewed 11,019 Saga customers, all aged 50+, online between 13th and 24 February 2014. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules; for more information see www.populus.co.uk
**NHS England, March 2014
***Department of Health, August 2012