£11m Bill For Outpatient Misses

Missed and cancelled hospital outpatient appointments cost the health service in Northern Ireland more than £11m, an Audit Office report has said. It said about one in 10 outpatient appointments does not take place.

This is because they have their appointment cancelled by the hospital, they cancel their own appointment – or they simply do not show up. The report acknowledged that while outpatient clinics still have problems, there have been improvements.

Patients now rarely wait more than six months for a first appointment, and Department of Health spokesman Dean Sullivan said reduced waiting lists would help to ease the problem. “There are mitigating factors around, to be fair to the patients, to why they are not turning up for appointments,” he said.

“Until very recently we have had exceptional waiting times for outpatient appointments – in some cases measured in years rather than months – and it’s entirely understandable that some patients might forget.”

Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd, the new chairman of the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, said it was a major cause for concern. “It’s money that could be used on other services so I think there is a task ahead to ensure that we bring this down to a bare minimum,” he said.