Over 1,300 patients a day are no-shows for their hospital appointments
MORE than 1,300 people a day are failing to keep their appointments at public hospital outpatient clinics – despite lengthening queues to see a specialist.
New figures reveal 39,243 "no-shows" in the course of one month – with more than one-fifth of return patients failing to turn up for appointments in some hospitals.
The cost to the State of each outpatient appointment can be €163, which would mean a loss of around €211,900 a day.
The patients are in official public hospital queues to see specialist teams to assess a huge range of health complaints.
They were slotted in to be seen at the outpatient clinics in hospitals across the country for a first-time appointment or follow-up care by the specialists.
But their non-appearance means that others on the waiting list, who could have taken their place, are losing out, while the practice is costing hospitals millions annually.
The latest figure for April comes as 339,000 people are on outpatient waiting lists for an appointment to see a consultant, 22,746 facing delays of more than a year.
The highest rate of no-shows is in clinics dealing with orthopaedics, ear, nose and throat, general surgery and stomach, digestive and intestinal disorders.
Hospitals are now set to get even tougher with patients who have no valid reason for not keeping the appointment .
The HSE said its hospitals were instructed to operate a "one strike and you are out" policy. A patient who has received a reminder from the hospital about an appointment is removed from the list if they do not turn up and have no valid excuse.
They are also doing more checks to see if people still want an appointment. The current rate of non-attendance is 16pc and lower targets are being set.
Hospitals also send reminders through text, phone and letter.
Responding to the Irish Independent, a spokeswoman for Temple St Children's Hospital said its non-attendance had gone down from 16.8pc in January to 14.2pc in May.
"All patients receive a text reminder four working days in advance of their appointment. We will be extending this service to ensure all parents and guardians receive two text reminders from August 1.
"All out-patient notification letters also include a statement for parents and guardians to note that their child will be removed from the waiting list should they fail to attend for their out-patient appointment, following clinical sign-off."
A spokesman for St Vincent's hospital said it was "one of the best performing hospitals nationally on non-attendances with rates of around 9pc, down from 25.5pc in 2009.
"This reduction of 50pc was achieved through the text reminder service, which sends two text-message reminders two and five working days before the patient's scheduled appointment."
Tallaght Hospital says it texts patients five days in advance of the appointment.