On Thursday 14 September, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals will be launching a new service which sends patients appointment reminders by text.
Currently, one in 10 outpatients do not attend their local hospital appointment, which is higher than at many other parts of the country. This means there are many appointment slots un-used each day which could have been reallocated to another patient.
The new appointment reminder service aims to reduce this number by sending a text reminder message to outpatients seven days before their appointment. Patients who do not have a mobile phone will have a voice message sent to the home phone. Children aged under 16 will have a reminder sent to their guardian.
The message will state the hospital, date and time of the appointment and patients will be able to reply to confirm, rebook or cancel.
Unless the patient has chosen to rebook or cancel, they will receive a further reminder message 48 hours before their appointment. Patients are able to opt out of the service by texting STOP in reply to the message.
Stephen Griffiths, general manager women and children’s services and leading on the implementation of the new system, explains: “Each year in our local hospitals around 9,000 outpatient appointments are missed. We hope that we can reduce this number by sending a text reminder to patients a few days beforehand to remind them.
“If patients are no longer able to make their appointment, the system makes it very easy for them to notify us so that we can rebook for another time or cancel if it is no longer needed. We can then offer the appointment slot to another patient, helping to reduce waiting times. It is estimated that each missed appointment costs the NHS around £160, so it will help save money too.”