MISSED appointments after patients have failed to cancel or reschedule cost the Great Western Hospital £5m last year.

According to the hospital, 40,000 people failed to turn up for a consultation during 2013-2014.

This represents five per cent of all 730,000 outpatient appointments.

Every missed appointment costs the Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust £100 on average.

Failing to attend means that staff waste an opportunity to see other patients who may have been waiting to be seen by consultants.

This also means that patients will lose their referral and have to ask their GP for a new one.

Although some missed consultations were due to clinics being cancelled because of staff illnesses or emergencies, most were simply down to patients not turning up.

GWH chief executive Nerissa Vaughan urged patients to text or phone the hospital to cancel in advance.

“Some of those will be people who have chosen not to turn up without letting us know, but there will be some where our own process needs to be improved,” she said.

“We know there is a process to get right, but the majority of these people are simply patients who just didn’t turn up. “If you have an appointment and you can’t make it, and there’s perfectly good reasons why many people cannot attend, please let us know and then we can reallocate the appointment to somebody else.”

The introduction of a telephone reminder service in August 2013 has helped to reduce missed appointments by 35 per cent, approximately 250 a week.

The service allows patients to receive a text message or automated telephone call a week before their appointment, reminding them of the location, date and time of their appointment and asking them to confirm, cancel or rearrange.

David Moss, deputy general manager for outpatients, encourages residents to ensure they were signed up to the reminders.

“This service aims to make it easier for patients to cancel or rearrange,” he said. “If we know a patient won't be attending, we can offer the appointment to someone else. By making sure all of our appointments are used, we can see more patients and patients will be seen sooner. I'm really pleased with the result so far.

“If we already have your phone number you don’t need to do anything. However if you do not think we have your up-to-date telephone number you can register your number on our website www.gwh.nhs.uk, call the Booking Centre on 01793 604080 or speak to the receptionist at your next appointment.”