PATIENTS who routinely miss outpatient appointments should be penalised – and even dropped to the bottom of the waiting list, a patient group has said.
Chairman of the Southampton LINk group Harry Dymond said those who miss appointments for no good reason should be made to ‘pay’ in some way.
And that includes the possibility of dropping repeat offenders to the bottom of waiting lists.
His comments come after it was revealed that last year 35,000 people missed scheduled outpatients appointments at Southampton General and Princess Anne hospitals while 10,000 people failed to turn up to meetings booked at the Royal County Hospital in Winchester .
The bill to the NHS in Hampshire alone is more than £5m, as it is estimated that each missed appointment costs an average of £126.
Mr Dymond said: “I’m all in favour of making patients ‘pay’ in some way if they miss their appointments for no apparent reason.
“Maybe a method of having them repositioned at the very bottom of the waiting list so that they suffer more for missing appointments would work.
“I’m not sure that fining patients is the right thing to do. The administrative burden of doing so could actually be worse in terms of overall cost, if you start having to chase fines from people who don’t pay.”
Southampton Itchen MP John Denham said he would want to see a great deal of research into why people were not turning up or cancelling appointments before considering levying a financial penalty.
He said: “While I wouldn’t rule it out completely I do think a lot of work needs to be done on finding out who these people are who miss appointments and why they do so.
“There are often quite complex health reasons, for example mental health issues or a number of different conditions that could have an impact on the number of appointments missed.
“Before we even looked at the possibility of penalising people, we would have to think very carefully or we would just end up punishing people who are not really at fault.”
He said that the onus should continue to be on the patient to make the appointment but he believed hospitals could do more to make bookings at more convenient times for patients.
Julian Lewis , MP for New Forest East, said that a punitive system for all probably would be inappropriate but that patients’ records should be “clearly marked” if they have a history of not turning up.
He added: “It’s down to the NHS experts who see how these appointments are going to waste every day.
“If they can come up with a way to address the problem, then I will fully support them.”