MLA appeal on hospital appointments
More than 150,000 hospital appointments were missed in Northern Ireland last year, new figures have revealed.
Almost a tenth of patients failed to attend or cancelled on the day the appointment was scheduled, said the Department of Health.
Belfast, the largest health trust, was responsible for most of the absences.
SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan said: "There is a huge financial cost attached which I am sure would make horrifying reading, but there is also the cost to the wider service, people who are having to wait for appointments because so many people are ahead of them, and then some do not turn up.
"Text messaging should be explored, better use of technology, all the schools seem to have embraced that. What they should be doing is looking at where appointments are missed and perhaps run a pilot scheme there."
There were 158,487 missed appointments, said the Department of Health's quarterly outpatient activity return. A total of 74,569 happened in Belfast.
According to a separate Assembly briefing note, Northern Ireland has the highest non-attendance rates for clinical appointments in the UK.
However, the figures show a slight drop from 2009/10, when patients missed 172,877 appointments resulting in a did not attend rate of just over one in 10. That rate has since fallen to just under one in 10.
A spokesman for the Department said more than 1.5 million outpatient appointments were attended in 2010/11. He added: "While some patients will have genuine reasons for not attending their appointments, it is important to be mindful of the implications for the health service.
"It prevents hospitals from contacting other patients who could have used the vacant slot, results in clinics not operating at their most effective levels and also means that clinicians' time has not been put to best use."