In an attempt to improve the take up of appointments, a health board in Wales has decided to write to patients informing them how much employments will cost on the NHS.
The information will be provided with all appointment letters issued in the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board region.
While lack of attendance can be an issue throughout the NHS, it is thought that the problem is particularly marked in the Welsh nation.
Hospital bosses hope that outlining the cost of appointments will incentivise and motivate patients to attend as agreed originally.
While Welsh hospitals accept that it will not be possible for all patients to attend all appointments, it is hoped that individuals will at least be prompted to contact NHS organisations and indicate that they will not be attending.
This enables resources to be redistributed elsewhere.
The Surgery Clinical Board say this measure, which they are trialling alongside appointment reminders, has only come into force recently but that it is already having an impact.
Meirion George, Director of Operations and Delivery for the Surgery Clinical Board, indicated that missed appointments can be a problem for Welsh hospitals, and that it is hoped that the new initiative will have a serious impact on the problem.
“Unfortunately patients not attending appointments continues to be a problem in some areas. In some instances, such as flexible cystoscopy, these appointments are an important part of the process of diagnosing an individual’s condition so it is crucial that patients attend their appointment.”
George also outlined the process that Welsh hospitals are engaging in with the intention of outlining the problems with missed appointments to patients.
“A number of things are being examined including telephone and text reminders as well as including the price of the procedure to help patients understand how important it is for them to attend. This has only recently been trialled but initial signs are that it is having an impact. We will be doing a full evaluation shortly to assess if this has helped reduce non-attendance. We would ask all patients to attend their appointments, wherever they are in the health service, for their own health and to allow us to make best use of the skills and finite resources we have.”
With over 1.2 million missed outpatient appointments occurring in Wales over the last three years, the estimated cost for health trusts in the nation is estimated to be in the region of £180 million.
Nonetheless, despite the decision by health bosses, some politicians have been reticent to welcome the idea.
Health Minister Mark Drakeford criticised the new policy and said it would prove too complicated to implement and even more problematic to enforce.