Text messages help Brighton hospital cut missed appointments, saving thousands of pounds

Posted On 08 Apr 2017 at 9:29 pm

Two-way text messaging has helped Brighton’s main hospital trust to cut the number of appointments missed by patients by “a phenomenal 30 per cent”.

The texts have helped to save thousands of pounds for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust with the equivalent of about 12,000 fewer missed appointments a year.

Evelyn Barker, managing director of the trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital, said in a newsletter to staff: “On (Sunday) 5 March we began a phased roll out of a new two-way texting reminder service for outpatient appointments.

“What this means is that we text the patient with the full details of their appointment and they are then able to reply, and if they need to, enter into a dialogue with us about whether they can attend their appointment or they need to reschedule.

“Since this phased roll out began there has been a phenomenal 30 per cent reduction in the number of ‘do not attend’ (DNA) patients – those who previously would have just not turned up for their outpatient appointments.

“This has reduced our overall DNA rate from 8 per cent to 6 per cent which equates to around 12,000 fewer missed appointments over the course of a year.

“This is a huge and important improvement which will impact on the experience of our patients and our productivity. A massive well done to our Patient Access Team and all those involved.”

Evelyn Barker


The trust’s chief operating officer Rab McEwan said: “There is a huge difference between ‘did not attend’ (DNA) and cancelled appointments.

“Each DNA hurts our service badly, it means we were expecting somebody to attend, we did all of the preparation for that attendance and they did not show up on the day without notice.

“The consequence on the day is that we need to change the whole clinic, bringing patients forward to fill the gap.

“In clinics with high DNA rates it is common practice in the NHS to ‘over-book’ the clinic to ensure we maximise the use of our resources but that churn and uncertainty in the clinic, caused by DNA, puts extra pressure and stress on other patients and staff.

“Ultimately, each DNA means a scarce clinical resource goes to waste, costing this trust alone at least £750,000 per year.

“We appreciate and understand that things change in the lives of our patients and for lots of sound reasons they need to change their appointment times.

“It’s so important to let us know early if this is the case though. Telling us you can’t make an appointment means we reduce waste, save money, we can offer the appointment to somebody else and rebook your appointment quicker.”

  1. Rolivan Reply

    How about those that have their appointments cancelled.I know of 2 people that had ops cancelled 3 times.Are these numbers part of the ‘churn’ where you have overbooked and have to cancel at the last minute.

    • Roger Kirk Reply

      The article is talking about outpatient appointments. I think a small number of operations could be done as outpatients, but most would be inpatients.

      There can be a huge number of reasons for cancelled operations: no beds available (often due to social care funding cuts preventing people being discharged from hospital), emergency situations taking up the staffing resources required, staff sickness meaning the staff who planned the operation are not available on the day, etc etc.

  2. Tine Chambers Reply

    My friend has recently had a shocking £10 extra added to her mobile phone bill….WHY….the text message reminders that were sent to her from NHS. She rang O2 and they told her she is being charged for the reminders for her appointments….GGRRRRRR, she never asked for them or opted in to any service for these.

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