PATIENTS who fail turn up for hospital appointments cost local health services a staggering £709,000 last year. The figure, revealed in Northern Devon Healthcare Trust s report for the financial year 2009-2010, was raised at its annual meeting by North De

PATIENTS who fail turn up for hospital appointments cost local health services a staggering £709,000 last year.

The figure, revealed in Northern Devon Healthcare Trust's report for the financial year 2009-2010, was raised at its annual meeting by North Devon Councillor Pat Barker.

Nearly 8,000 people missed their appointments last year, she said.

"I am absolutely staggered that people do this. It is worse than anti-social behaviour in many ways," she told the Gazette.

"Obviously there may be times when people can't make appointments, but they should at least let someone know. They could be stopping someone else who is desperate to see a consultant or specialist."

The trust told the Gazette the cost of the 7,960 missed appointments was in staff time and equivalent to 20 wasted out-patient clinics every week.

A spokesman said patients might be harming other people as well as themselves if they don't attend, missing out on their own diagnosis or treatment and causing delays to others.

"If you have an appointment, please do come along or let us know if you can't make it and you can always change the dates," he said.

"For appointments such as radiology we tend to ask people to confirm appointments and phone those who haven't called in, but with tens of thousands of outpatients going through the hospital every year, we can't phone everyone.

"And despite the reminders, even then a proportion still doesn't attend.

"If people tell us they can't make it, we can offer the slot to someone else."

The trust is currently working on a text reminder service as another way of trying to reach patients.

Councillor Barker appealed to people to be more responsible:

"Everyone is bending over backwards to make sure the services are the best they can offer - the public must play its part, too!