A new campaign is informing patients of the heavy financial impact of missed appointments on NHS Borders services.
The health board estimates that despite reductions in missed appointments over recent years, they still cost NHS Borders a staggering £1 million per year.
Nearly 10,000 appointments were missed in the 12 months up to March 31 this year.
That figure means around 5% of appointments scheduled with NHS Borders are still being missed without any notice being given - they are known to staff as ‘Did Not Attends’.
An average missed appointment costs in the region of £100, which is money that could have been put towards staffing, purchasing equipment and investing in local services.
Evelyn Rodger, director of nursing, midwifery and acute services with NHS Borders, said this week: “There are many genuine reasons why you may not be able to attend your appointment, however by letting us know as soon as possible, you give us the opportunity to reschedule it for someone else.
“As part of the ‘’Spare a thought for that empty chair’ campaign, we are asking everyone to provide us with their most up to date contact details, including a mobile number so we can invite and remind them to future appointments via text where appropriate.”
She continued, outlining how the campaign aims to raise awareness of the issue among patients: “New leaflets will be included in all appointment letters during June, to encourage attendance and to make it easier to update your information for us with your mobile number.”
Rodger also stressed the effects on patients themselves when they go down in the system as a ’did not attend’.
She added: “It’s important to remember that a missed appointment may also lead to you being referred back to your GP, potentially delaying your treatment time by up to twelve weeks.”
Missing appointments can also make other peoples’ waits longer, although NHS Borders “will continue to do everything we can to remind you of your appointment,” said Rodger.
“If you can’t make it then please just let us know as soon as possible so that we can arrange to see you at a time that suits you and give your original appointment to someone else who is waiting.”
Almost 400,000 people in Scotland failed to attend their NHS appointments last year.
On a regional level, 9,976 appointments were missed between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016.
This total includes those missed appointments from all acute specialities as well as those from allied health professional services, including occupational therapy, podiatry and speech and language therapy.
Costs of different appointments were further broken down. The majority of ‘did not attends’ were for doctor-led appointments. There were 4,538 such appointments missed, at an average cost to the health board of £169 per appointment.
The next most common appointments missed were with allied health professionals. There were 3,723 such appointments missed, at an average cost of £66 per appointment.
Meanwhile missed nurse-led appointments amounted to a loss of £41,756.