More than 44,000 patients missed appointments at hospitals in the South/South West Hospital Group (SSWHG) in 2020, with the hospital group warning this may impact waiting times for other patients.
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that some 44,688 appointments were recorded as “missed by patients” in the SSWHG, which covers Cork and Kerry, in 2020.
A spokesperson said that patients missing an appointment without giving notice or a reason "may result in longer wait times for other patients”.
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also revealed that a validation process involving 38,000 appointments saw more than 5,400 patients removed from waiting lists in the South/South West.
The validation process sees hospitals contact patients, usually via letter, to ask if they wish to remain on a waiting list. Patients are given a certain timeframe in which to respond and, if they do not, they are removed from the waiting list.
Hospitals in the SSWHG validated some 33,179 outpatient appointments and 5,257 inpatient/day case appointments.
As a result of the process, almost 5,000 patients were removed from outpatient waiting lists and another 647 were removed from inpatient/day case waiting lists in the region.
The SSWHG explained that the purpose of validation is to maintain “hospital patient communication during the patient’s waiting list journey, update the patient record, reduce DNA [did-not-attends] and patient cancellation rates, and provide clean, accurate, up to date waiting list data which reflects the true demand for hospital services”.
A spokesperson for the hospital group explained that patients were removed from waiting lists for a number of reasons, following the validation process.
These included when “the patient requested removal; the patient passed away; the patient advised that they were treated elsewhere; the patient had moved away, or the patient did not respond to the validation correspondence”.
The spokesperson explained that patients are given two opportunities to respond under validation and, in all cases where patients are removed, the patient and their GP are advised of their removal with advice to their how they might be reinstated by their GP.
However, the validation process itself has been criticised by a Cork GP, who has called for a different system to be implemented.
Nick Flynn of MyCorkGP.ie explained that the validation process can disproportionately impact people depending on their circumstances.
“If everybody they’re writing to is a middle-class teacher, librarian, or other similar profession, that’s fine because they can understand the letter and the need for a response,” said Dr Flynn.
“They’re entitled to validate their waiting lists but there has to be a better way of doing it."