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Texting service to remind patients of hospital appointments

Patients missing appointments cost Northampton General Hospital more than £1million last year.

Now, health chiefs are introducing a new text message service to remind patients of their outpatient appointment.

The system will text patients with details of the date and time of their appointments, for both new and follow-up appointments.

Deborah Needham, chief operating officer, said: "In 2014, more than 20,000 people missed an appointment - which includes scans, tests and consultations - and didn’t tell us they wouldn’t be attending.

"From next week, we are implementing a text reminder service for a number of our clinics. This will prompt patients to confirm, cancel or rebook their appointment.  

"A missed appointment is a wasted appointment and can lead to longer waiting times for all patients.  We understand that sometimes, there are genuinely unavoidable circumstances that mean a patient can’t attend, but hopefully this new service will reduce the number of appointments not attended.

"The benefit to our patients is this will greatly reduce the likelihood of them forgetting when their outpatient appointment is. It will also reminding them to reschedule if the appointment time or date isn’t convenient or cancel if it is no longer needed; this will give us an opportunity to offer that appointment to another patient."

Patients will automatically be included in this new service if Northampton General Hospital holds a telephone number for them.

The patient reminder service covers hospital outpatient appointments with the exception of some clinics that are not appropriate for a text reminder, such as certain women’s and cancer specialities. In these instances staff will contact patients as they do now to confirm appointments.

In addition, the hospital will continue to use telephone calls to remind patients over the age of 65 of an upcoming appointment.

Across the country, NHS England calculates that nearly seven million people missed a hospital outpatients appointment each year. Figures suggest that nearly 12 million GP appointments are also missed every year. Altogether, missed appointments costs the NHS more than £162 million every year.

Posted on Tuesday 9th May 2017
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