Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

‘We should charge those who miss appointments’

  • Comment
Here’s something that really irritates me – missed appointments. Take the other week. There I was, waiting at clinic for my next patient to turn up. After 29 minutes, I had to conclude the only entry I would be making in their notes was did not attend (DNA)

It wasn’t the first time it had happened, and it won’t be the last, but that doesn’t make it any easier. As any healthcare worker will tell you, time is a precious commodity. I can’t help feeling that my time and the time of those who had helped arrange that appointment had been wasted.
There may be a valid reason – such as illness, for example – but studies indicate that most patients who don’t turn up for any appointment simply forget. To make matters worse, they will soon be consulting their GP again with the same problem that would have been dealt with at the appointment they missed.
We’re not talking about the odd DNA here and there. It seems that forgetfulness is a national problem. In 2005–2006, data from 141 hospital trusts suggested that 6.8 million appointments were missed. Yet, despite this being another successive rise, few solutions have been put on the table to tackle the problem. One suggestion was to remind people with text messages but, if you have to text 1,000 people so that you can catch the 100 that wouldn’t have turned up, we’re making work for ourselves and not really addressing the problem.
One creative way to encourage attendance is to utilise the importance people place on ‘authority’ figures. A letter signed by a consultant, for example, might be more likely to encourage attendance than one signed by the outpatients booking clerk.
However, I think there is only one solution to dealing with those who ‘forget’ to turn up for appointments. In my opinion, the time has come for us to charge those with no valid excuse. It’s certainly worked in other organisations. How many times have you forgotten a dentist appointment?
If this sounds a little harsh, then just consider the knock-on effects. DNAs cost trusts millions at a time when they are attempting to correct financial shortfalls, waiting lists have grown, wards have been closed, services slashed and many of our nursing colleagues have lost their posts.
We must enforce the message that, as much as our patients have rights, they also have responsibilities – and one of them is to turn up for their appointment.

Rob Harteveldt is a cardiac liaison nurse at Stoke Mandeville Hospital
NEXT WEEK: Alison Gadsby on the ethical decisions nurses face every day

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.