Health Minister Simon Burns has urged NHS hospitals to make more use of innovative solutions to tackle the number of people who miss appointments.
Last year, the NHS reduced the number of missed outpatient appointments by more than 250,000, against a background of rising demand, with over 800,000 more patients having an appointment during the year. But there were still around 5.5 million missed appointments - more than one in 10 of the nearly 53 million outpatients appointments carried out by the NHS during 2011/12, says the Department of Health.
"It is important that people realise that not turning up for their agreed appointments means other patients' care might be delayed and doctors' and nurses' time could be wasted, costing taxpayers' money," said Mr Burns. He added that the number of missed appointments was being highlighted "so that people can see the impact this is having on their NHS."
"Under the NHS Constitution, we all have rights to treatment, such as being seen within 18 weeks. Patients often have genuine reasons to miss an appointment, but it can have a big impact on the care we can offer to other patients. It is important that the public understand we have responsibilities too, like not wasting precious NHS resources," he said.Mr Burns welcomed the NHS' increasing use of simple ideas such as texting patients before an appointment or seeing them via Skype. "These could have a dramatic impact and I want to see more hospitals making use of them," he said.
Figures for 2011/12 show that more than 1.5 million of the missed appointments were for the first time outpatients needed to come to hospital, while nearly four million missed appointments were to follow up treatment or to check up and monitor patients' progress.
Specifically, in 2011/12 there were 16,891,881 first outpatient attendances and 1,539,655 missed first outpatient appointments, while 35,949,907 patients attended their follow-up outpatient appointments, and 3,911,124 did not.