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A new patient reminder service has been launched by NHS 24 in a bid to cut down the number of wasted hospital appointments in Scotland.
As part of the new service, NHS 24 staff contact patients eight days prior to their appointment and inform them of any important details
The initiative is currently running in NHS Forth Valley and NHS Western Isles in clinics such as gynaecology and gastroenterology, and is set to be extended to other health boards.
Figures from the initial five-month pilot in NHS Forth Valley found that approximately 10,000 patients were sent a reminder about a hospital appointment and more than a quarter of missed appointments were saved as a result.
In addition, the number of missed appointments in clinics such as outpatient paediatrics fell from one in six ‘did not attends’ to one in four.
During NHS 24’s Annual Review, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “The patient reminder service is a really innovative way to reduce the number of people who don’t attend hospital appointments.
“It is every patient’s responsibility to keep their appointments, but we also recognise that the NHS has a role to play in helping to make appointments convenient for patients.
“From the pilot, we have seen quite a dramatic reduction in the number of people not turning up to their appointments.
“This means we are reducing waste in the health service and making sure that people are being seen much more quickly.”
Reminders are currently being given to patients using NHS 24 call operating staff, but Ms Sturgeon says she hopes plans can be secured to bring this service to people through the use of multiple technologies.
She said: “At the moment, NHS 24 are using telephone calls to remind patients but in the future, there is scope to supplement this with text messages, perhaps the day before the appointment is due.
“There is really no limit to this. The technology is there and the infrastructure that NHS 24 has lends itself to this.
“I think this can be of huge advantage to health boards as they try to use their resources as efficiently as possible and provide the best possible care for people.”