50k hospital dates a year rearranged

Pilgrim Hospital
Pilgrim Hospital

About 50,000 appointments a year at Boston Pilgrim Hospital are rearranged or postponed, figures reveal.

The figures, which equate to almost a thousand appointments every week, relate to outpatient dates at the Sibsey Road hospital and have been revealed following a Freedom of Information request.

The data shows 48,249 appointments had to be changed in 2012/13, with the numbers at 50,647 in 2011/12, 47, 907 in 2010/11, 46, 641 in 2009/10 and 53, 214 in 2008/09.

A spokesman for United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust, which runs the Pilgrim, said: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused when appointments are rearranged, and we expect to see a reduction in the number of outpatient appointments in all specialties being reduced as we move to a new booking system later this year.”

It is not clear how many of those altered appointments are put off by the hospital or by patients changing the date or not turning up.

However a separate Freedom of Information request submitted to the trust showed that 5,321 people on the waiting list for admissions for surgery or other procedures in 2012/13 had their original dates changed.

Of those 1,556 were cancelled by the hospital – 514 because no surgeon was available and 444 because of no general beds.

The rest – 3,765 – were called off by patients.

A spokesman said this is caused by a variety of reasons – such as a rush in emergencies or increased demand over the busy winter period.

A spokesman said: “The Trust recognises the inconvenience this may cause and apologises where patients have had an operation rearranged.

“The trust will be opening additional beds at Pilgrim hospital for vascular surgery and general surgery later this year which will help to alleviate the situation.”

They urged people to notify the hospital if they know they can’t attend (see below) to save unnecessary upheaval.

‘please tell us if you can’t turn up’

Hospital bosses have asked for help from patients to try to help cut down on the number of appointments that have to be rearranged.
The trust says some of the issues with dates having to be changed arise from patients not turning up and failing to notify the hospital so that someone else can take their slot.

A spokesman said: “By not attending, the trust loses the slot and has an empty appointment that could have been offered to another patient. We have introduced new services such as a text reminder service to reduce the number of missed appointments, but we also need to appeal to patients to attend their appointments.”

The trust says the issue is particularly felt for operations and procedures where several members of staff from different departments may have to be booked to attend.
The spokesman said: “We work hard to ensure patients can attend their appointments to avoid a situation where we have an empty theatre at that time. Each procedure uses valuable resources such as surgeons, anaesthetists, nursing staff, administration, and missed operations leaves resources available that could be used for other patients. 
“If patients are unable to attend for an operation, we request that they contact the hospital.”
The trust says patients can now also email the hospital to cancel their appointments by contacting outpa
tient.appointments@ulh.nhs.uk. Patients are asked to provide their full name, address, date of birth and date and time of appointment to be changed.