As waiting lists reach record highs, more than 40,000 outpatients are absent each month

More than 40,000 public patients fail to show up in hospital outpatient departments each month, although the number, which now stands at a record 629,447, is awaiting a specialist.

Although Dublin’s largest hospitals have the highest number of no-shows each month, with 3,446 no-shows for appointments at Mater, 3,303 at St James and 3,050 at Beaumont in June, this is a national problem.

A total of 2,048 public patients did not participate at University Hospital Waterford and 2,190 at University Hospital Limerick.

This is also a problem in maternity hospitals with 1,372 no-shows at the Rotunda in Dublin. In the Galway Saolta Hospital group, 2,277 did not attend appointments. Health officials said it was disruptive to staff running clinics.

Numbers were high for the first six months of the year, although they tend to worsen towards the summer compared to January.

The lowest number – 18 no-shows – in June was reported by the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dun Laoghaire, and 23 at Kilcreen Orthopedic Hospital, Limerick.

A spokesman for the HSE said there were several reasons why patients had not attended (DNA) outpatient appointments.

“Following the release of the Waitlisting Action Plan 2022, a high-level review of international and local best practices on non-participation was conducted,” he said.

“The results suggested that patients may have DNA due to a variety of complex, wide-ranging factors, but research shows that the four most common causes of DNAs are when the patient forgets the date and time of their appointment to go to uncomfortable to attend or no longer needed the appointment or sought treatment elsewhere.”

The spokesman said the fourth reason could be that the hospital failed to notify the patient of his appointment or registered his cancellation

The HSE advises patients who are unable to keep an outpatient appointment to inform the hospital.

When asked what is being done to reduce no-shows, the spokesperson said: “Most hospitals send text reminders to patients a short time before their appointment.

“If a text reminder is not available, patients are usually reminded by letter. It is important that patients contact and notify acute care hospital service if they are unable to attend a scheduled outpatient appointment.

“This allows staff to reschedule an appointment and ensure the patient is receiving the care prescribed by their referring GP.”

A protocol also establishes the procedure for removing patients from the list if they do not participate.

Key actions included implementing a robust end-to-end plan to reduce the non-attendance rate at both new and outpatient review appointments.

Key focus areas of this plan include standardizing appointment schedules and appointment letters while validating contact information.

The spokesman said it also includes “issuing reminder letters before the appointment and offering the patient a choice of appointment if they are unable to attend.” As waiting lists reach record highs, more than 40,000 outpatients are absent each month

Fry Electronics Team

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