Missed appointments waste millions

22:26, Mar 12 2014

Millions of public dollars are being wasted by patients not attending specialist appointments at southern hospitals.

The Southland Times understands that from July to December last year 5157 patients failed to attend specialist appointments, costing the district more than $1.5 million.

Figures obtained by The Times under the Official Information Act show the board is funded by the Ministry of Health for between $225.90 and $375.80 for each appointment. For each appointment missed the board would have to recover lost staffing costs and potentially run additional clinics to manage rescheduled patients.

As a result, the figures show patients needing a first-time specialist appointment for general surgery cost the Southern DHB $285.76 per patient, while a patient requiring a first-time specialist medical appointment cost $375.80.

Follow-up specialist appointments cost $225.90 for general surgery and $255.14 for general medicine.

Southern DHB patient services executive director Lexie O'Shea said patients who skipped appointments had an impact on other services.

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"DNAs (do not attends) have significant impact on services in terms of both the inefficient use of DHB resources and delays caused to other patients," Ms O'Shea said.

Rresources were wasted because consultants were scheduled for clinics including nursing and clerical support, she said.

In December 2013, 7.4 per cent of appointments made were missed.

Ms O'Shea said delays in rescheduling for patients could range from the next day up to four months depending on the patient's condition and clinical urgency.

"If a patient misses two consecutive appointments the patient will be returned to the referrer."

The Southland Times