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Which type of reminders and notifications will reduce the number of missed NHS appointments?

03 February 2012

A new study funded by the NIHR HS&DR programme will explore which type of appointment reminders and notifications are most effective in ensuring that patients attend their outpatient appointments.

Every year around 24 million GP and consultant appointments are missed by patients, costing the NHS around £600m. In addition to the financial waste there are many other negative effects of missed appointments such as longer waiting times for patients and reduced satisfaction with the healthcare they receive. It can lead to poorer relationships between patients and healthcare professionals and may also mean that a patient’s condition can deteriorate whilst they are waiting to be seen, leading to unnecessary pain or distress and possible admission to hospital.

The research led by Dr Sionnadh McLean of Sheffield Hallam University, will review different types of patient reminders with the aim of identifying those that are most effective in improving attendance at appointments and patient satisfaction. “The research could lead to significant cost savings to the NHS. It could also improve the way outpatient services are managed and improve patient satisfaction with these services,” says Dr McLean.

An additional aim is to investigate the variables which influence the effectiveness of those reminder systems. This mixed methods review will bring together primary comparative studies with qualitative studies and process evaluations of factors which lead to appropriate responses to such reminders.  

 “By identifying reminder strategies which are most appropriate for particular patient groups attending outpatient appointments, healthcare organisations and managers may be able to use this information to  help improve attendance at appointments, reduce wastage of resources and improve the overall quality and effectiveness of healthcare for all patients,” says Dr Mclean.

View the project details

This project was commissioned by the NIHR Health Services Research (NIHR HSR) programme under the management of the National Institute for Health Research Evaluations, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC) based at the University of Southampton.

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The NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme is managed by the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC). NETSCC is part of the University of Southampton funded by the NIHR, with specific contributions from the CSO in Scotland and NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

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