"Appointments - some suggestions about making them better"

(as the patient),

Having had to cancel one appointment because of an impending bereavement in another part of the country, on my return I overlooked the letter containing a call for treatment, only a couple of days after my return, until the afternoon of the morning when it had been allocated.

I wonder why appointment letters, especially when at short notice, are not marked in some way to distinguish them from 'boring' letters, e.g. by marking them as 'time critical information'. Also, given the cost of hospital time potentially lost with patient no-shows, would it not be worth doing one or more of the following:

1. Calling or e-mailing the patient to get the patient's agreement to the time allocated

2. Asking the patient to confirm the postal appointment (which means not keeping them in a queue when they ring!) and ringing them if they do not respond.

2. Ringing them to remind anyway - most people have some kind of message storage if they are not available to answer

3. How about e-mail - widely used inside the NHS, why not use it to contact patients? It could also be used to fill gaps due to cancellation if patients offered themselves for standby - the e-mail could have a dealine for response.

Of course I realise that all we bad patients not turning up makes a good excuse for keeping us waiting a long time when we do turn up as 'we have to overbook to ensure time is not wasted' - that is a lousy excuse if no-one does anything about trying to ensure bookings are taken up or cancelled in good time.

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