Patients may face €20 non-show fee
In July last year a total of 35,197 patients did not attend scheduled hospital appointments, according to HSE figures, writes PAUL CULLEN,Health Correspondent
PEOPLE WHO fail to show up for medical appointments in public hospitals could face a charge of €20 before they will be seen again, according to Minister for Health James Reilly.
Dr Reilly told the Dáil he was prepared to discuss the prospect of a €20 charge on no-shows for the next appointment.
He also said he wanted appointments arranged in a more structured way that was respectful of people, with an end to the practice of calling large numbers of patients to attend at the same appointment time.
“This is to suit the system rather than to suit the client – the patient. In my view, this shows tremendous disdain and disrespect for citizens that their time is of no consequence,” Dr Reilly told Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher. “I wonder if we were to compute the cost in time lost from work for people, the figures could be quite staggering.”
According to HSE figures, 10,520 patients did not attend a first appointment last July while 24,677 did not attend second or subsequent appointments. This represented a total of 35,197 patients who did not attend scheduled appointments, or over 15 per cent of the total.
The Minister made his remarks in the context of a discussion on outpatient waiting lists, which reached almost 360,000 in the latest HSE report.
He said that this figure might seem an extraordinary one and a “daunting prospect” that had to be put in context. About 200,000 patients were treated in outpatients every month.
He described some of the issues involved as disturbing and unacceptable and said there needed to be a change in practices. Dr Reilly said he had already spoken to the acting chief executive of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, about the need for changes.
The situation could be improved by ensuring that the right person was seen by the right professional. For example, a depressed person might require counselling but this was not available for a GP’s public patients so the person would be referred to the psychiatric clinic.
“This is very inconvenient for patients and very costly for the system,” Dr Reilly commented.
Meanwhile, one survey in the UK found that in nearly half of all orthopaedic referrals from GPs, a physiotherapist was able to deal with the complaint.
Mr Kelleher called for movement to improve the flow of patients through the system. He said the key issue was whether services could be maintained in the coming months or whether cutbacks would cause a backlog to build up.