Patients missed the equivalent of £4 million worth of appointments at East Sussex health trust

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust potentially lost more than £4 million due to thousands of missed appointments through the pandemic, figures show.

The failed appointments waste time and heap pressure on consultants who already face “extraordinary demand” due to the virus, says the British Medical Association.

NHS Digital data shows that in the 11 months from April last year, there were 27,835 outpatient appointments which people did not show up for.

It means out of 365,195 booked sessions, 8% were unattended.

And with the average outpatient appointment costing £160 – as estimated by several NHS trusts – the no-shows may have cost East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust around £4.5 million.

Across England’s health providers, 5 million appointments were missed during the same period to the end of February, around 7% of those booked – wasting the NHS an estimated £760 million.

Dr Rob Harwood, BMA consultants committee chairman, said it was “concerning” to see the rate of failed appointments given the current backlog in care.

He said: “We urge people not to just simply fail to attend as this wastes an appointment time that could have been used for someone else; someone who might potentially need it more urgently.

“It also places the most pressure on consultants trying to deliver a service under extraordinary demand and in already difficult circumstances.”

At East Sussex Healthcare Trust, the rate of missed hospital appointments was at its highest in January when 10% were no-shows, 3,300 in total.

Across England, the highest rates of people failing to show for appointments were in December and January – coinciding with the second wave of the pandemic.

A spokesperson from NHS England said measures were in place in hospitals to ensure patients remained safe.

They added: “People should continue to attend their medical appointments as normal - if you are unable to attend for any reason, please let us know so your appointment can be filled by another patient who may need it.”

Of the missed appointments at East Sussex Healthcare Trust, 7,925 were first appointments and 19,910 were follow-ups. All figures are rounded to the nearest five.

Tara Argent, chief operating officer for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said, “Our hospitals are open and measures are in place to keep patients safe.

“People should attend appointments as normal.

“If you are unable to attend for any reason, please let us know so your appointment can be filled by another patient who may need it.”

A spokesperson for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust said the rate of patients not attending their hospital appointment fluctuates month on month and there has been a reduction in non-attendance since January.

The Trust say they have continued to offer clinically appropriate face-to-face outpatient appointments since the start of the pandemic, with a significant number of appointments undertaken by either telephone or video call which has reduced footfall into hospitals helping to keep patients and staff safe.

The spokesperson from East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust also wanted to clarify that the figures quoted in the article are notional costs based on an estimated cost for a missed appointment.