One in 10 NHS hospital appointments do not take place because patients do not turn up, according to recent NHS statistics.
Clearly this is an enormous waste of public money particularly when the time better spent would reduce waiting lists for other patients. A total of 5.5 million listed appointments did not take place last year because there was no sign of the patient.
On the face of it you might think this was all down to the patients and no doubt on many occasions it is. However on numerous occasions I have seen ‘DNA’ (did not attend) written in a patient’s records when there is no evidence that they were actually sent an appointment.
Whether a patient was actually sent an appointment or not is often an issue in Medical Negligence claims and it may not be the doctor’s fault. At least some of these wasted appointments are down to clerical errors by hospitals. This can of course lead to serious medical problems where a patient needs urgent investigations or treatment.
One alarming expression I read from time to time in medical records is that a patient becomes ‘lost to follow-up’. This is a rather vague explanation for hospitals losing contact with a patient which sounds on the face of it as though it was nobody’s fault. But I have several medical negligence claims where people have been ‘lost to follow-up’ as a result of hospital errors and suffered serious harm as a result.
One had a failed hip replacement which had to be taken out, leaving him with no hip. More than 2 years of disability have passed and he has still not managed to see his surgeon again. Two people had fractures which did not unite, one in the elbow and the other in the lower leg. Both ended up with bad outcomes becomes they were not called them back for review as they should have been.
No one wants to see precious NHS resources wasted by people who do not turn up to their appointments. However before we should be too quick to point the finger we should realise that it is not always patients who are to blame.
Paul Sankey is a Medical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
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