Millions of patients have failed to turn up to their appointments between January and June, resulting in almost £350 million waste in the NHS.

According to the latest figures from NHS England, out of the 33.6 million outpatient appointments nearly 2.9 million people (8.6%) either failed to show up for outpatient appointments or arrived too late to be seen, between January and June.

The average outpatient appointment costs the NHS £120, according to the latest resources cost data. According to some GPs, some of this cost is the time that is then taken to follow up with certain patients for safeguarding reasons.

Responding to the latest figures, Dr Julia Reid MEP said: “Unfortunately, this story isn’t anything new, it’s the same story year after year, and it’s just one of many reasons why the NHS is still struggling financially. It just simply can’t afford to lose almost £60 million pounds a month, just for missed appointments alone – especially not at a time when the NHS is on the brink of collapse.

“Therefore, I think the most obvious thing that needs to happen first, is to get EVERY hospital utilising text message reminders to remind patients of upcoming appointments because surprisingly there are still many hospitals that still aren’t doing this yet. According to one of the NHS’s own studies, the evidence indicates that text message reminders offer a flexible and cost-effective means of increasing appointment attendance. So why isn’t every hospital using this yet?

“Another issue, of course, is that many patients simply aren’t aware of how much their missed appointment would cost the NHS. According to the results of a trial, which tested the content of appointment reminders, when patients were informed how much their missed appointment cost the NHS, this helped reduce missed appointments by 23% compared to the standard message.

So with this knowledge, why hasn’t the NHS tried this approach at more hospitals? Not only would it help to cut the waste and increase efficiency, but it also doesn’t add anything to the cost of the original SMS reminder either.