As waiting lists hit record highs, more than 40,000 hospital outpatients are no-shows each month

More than 40,000 public patients are failing to turn up at hospital outpatient clinics every month, despite the number waiting to see a specialist now at a record 629,447.

lthough the biggest Dublin hospitals have the highest number of no-shows each month, with 3,446 not attending for appointments in the Mater, 3,303 in St James’s and 3,050 in Beaumont in June, it is a nationwide problem.

A total of 2,048 public patients failed to attend at University Hospital Waterford and 2,190 at University Hospital Limerick.

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

The numbers have been high in the first six months of the year, although they tend to get worse going in to the summer compared with January.

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

A spokesman for the HSE said there are multiple reasons patients did not attend (DNA) outpatient appointments.

“Following publication of the 2022 Waiting List Action Plan, a high-level review of international and local best practice was completed in relation to did-not-attend’,” he said.

“Findings indicated patients can DNA due to a variety of complex, wide-ranging factors, but research indicates the four most common causes of DNAs are the patient forgot their appointment date and time, was too unwell to attend or no longer required the appointment or sought treatment elsewhere.”

The spokesman said the fourth reason could be that the hospital failed to inform the patient of their appointment or register their cancellation

The HSE advises patients unable to attend an outpatient appointment to inform the hospital.

Asked what is being done to reduce the number of no-shows, the spokesman said: “The majority of hospitals provide text reminders to patients a short period of time prior to their appointment.

“Where text reminder is not available, patients are typically reminded by letter. It is important for patients to contact and notify acute hospital services if they are unable to attend a scheduled outpatient appointment.

“This will allow staff to rebook an appointment and ensure the patient is provided with the care prescribed by his or her referring GP.”

A protocol also sets out the process for removal of patients from the list when they do not attend.

A key action included the implementation of a robust end-to-end plan to reduce the did-not-attend rate for both new and review outpatient appointments.

Key areas of focus for this plan include standardising scheduling timelines and appointment letters while validating contact details.

The spokesman said it also involved “issuing reminder letters prior to appointment and offering patient choice in appointment date if unable to attend”.

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