Health chiefs at the Western Trust are to get texting in a bid to combat appointment no-shows at hospitals and health centres across the region.
A new outpatient reminder service will be introduced from next week.
It comes after the latest available figures show that in the month of September 2012 alone there were more than 3,000 missed appointments in hospitals across the west.
Patients will be given an SMS text alert or an automated voice call to landline phones reminding them of the time and date of their appointments a week beforehand.
The new reminder service will be introduced on November 19.
Sorcha Dougan, Western Trust outpatient access manager, said: “The aim of this initiative is to reduce the number of ‘did not attends’ (DNAs) that the trust experience every year across its hospital sites.
“In 2010/11 approximately 23,000 outpatient appointments were missed across the trust, a rate of 9%, or almost one in 10 outpatients failed to turn up for their appointment. By implementing this new service the trust hopes to dramatically reduce this rate.”
The number of DNAs for outpatient appointments at Altnagelvin Hospital in September this year stood at 1,188.
For the same period there were 61 missed appointments at Roe Valley Hospital, 962 at the Tyrone County Hospital and, 830 at the South West Acute Hospital.
Geraldine McKay, Western Trust assistant director for surgery and anaesthetics, said: “We know there are genuine reasons why some patients do not attend for their appointments but every missed appointment is a lost opportunity for someone else to be seen.
“This service alerts patients to their appointment and encourages them to contact us to rearrange if they are unable to attend.”
Trust chiefs have said that patients who, as a result of receiving the reminder, give advanced notification to cancel or reschedule will free up their appointment time which can be reallocated to other patients, helping to cut outpatient waiting lists.