A newly improved text reminder system has been introduced by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, to help patients remember their appointment details and reduce the number of missed appointments.

Every year a significant amount of patients choose not to attend their hospital appointments. Last year alone, over 46,000 people did not attend their appointments across the Health Board. This delays treatment and increases waiting times for all patients.

Total cost of missed appointments to the Health Board in 2018/19 was £6.5m the equivalent of:

  • 131 hospital beds
  • 169 nurses
  • 884 hip operations
  • 966 knee operations
  • 5,643 cataract operations

The improved text reminders will include the first name of the patient, the date, time, speciality (e.g Urology) and location of their appointment. Text reminders will also encourage patients to get in contact if they can no longer attend, or rearrange their appointment by sending a response.

The improved service will also allow patients with outpatient appointments an option to continue to receive a bilingual text message or to have the message in Welsh or English only.

The new system has been introduced in response to an Outpatient Services Survey which asked patients to tell us why they were not able to attend their appointment.

Sue Wood, Outpatient Services Improvement Project Lead for Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board said: “We carried out a survey between 3 September 2018 through to 5 November 2018 which was shared through our webpage and social media accounts and through engaging with patients face to face at our hospital sites.

“We received over 2,200 online and paper responses to the survey and the feedback has helped us to understand more fully the reasons why patients could not attend their appointments.

“Since then we have been working hard to make improvements on those areas so we can improve, with text reminders being the start of the process.

“Patients asked us to add additional information to the text reminders and I am pleased that we have been able to do this. However, we really need our patients to help by consenting to this new information.”

Wendy Hughes, Project Lead for the Hospital Reminder Service, added: “We recently amended our basic 24 hour reminder to be delivered 48 hours prior to a patient’s clinic appointment. This allows additional time to re-utilise a clinic slot if patients were unable to attend and provides further time for patients to make arrangements.

“Now that our staff are asking patients for their consent to opt in and their preferred language choice, in either English or Welsh when receiving text reminders, we are able to include additional information within the text reminder and in their preferred language choice. Patients that don’t provide this, will continue to receive our basic, bilingual message unless they have opted out.”

Dr Sakkarai Ambalavanan, Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine at Glan Clwyd Hospital, has welcomed the improved text reminder service. He said: “Text messages are a really common way of reminding people about appointments in their everyday lives and this improved service will really benefit our patients.

“Some patients require a number of appointments at a number of sites so having a text message reminding them which hospital they are attending will be really helpful.

“It will also benefit our staff as a lot of time goes into calling patients days before a patient’s appointment to ensure they are able to attend.

“People not turning up for appointments has a real knock on affect and not only delays the treatment for those patients but also delays our clinics and impacts on other patients.

“I would always urge people to get in contact with us as early as possible if they are unable to attend their appointment for any reason. This allows us to rearrange a more suitable date and time for them and we are able to provide the original appointment to someone else.”

To register your details for the new text reminder service visit: https://bcuhb.nhs.wales/patients-and-visitors/hospital-appointment-reminder-service/

Photo: Dianne Neblett, Sister for ENT Outpatients, Wendy Hughes, Project Lead for the Hospital Reminder Service, Sue Wood, Outpatient Services Improvement Project Lead for BCUHB, Dr Sakkarai Ambalavanan, Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine, Adam Griffiths, Head of Nursing for Medicine for Glan Clwyd Hospital.