TENS of thousands of people are wasting doctors’ time and public cash by failing to keep outpatient appointments at Basildon and Southend hospitals.

Figures show the number of missed appointments at the two hospitals are increasing, with almost 1,600 more people who failed to attend appointments in 2012 than 2011.

At Basildon Hospital, a total of 36,404 patients did not showup to a new or follow-up date in 2012/2013.

That represents almost 12 per of the estimated 310,000 people seen by the outpatients’ departments each year.

This is up from 35,850 missed appointments in 2011/2012.

Meanwhile, at Southend hospital a staggering 44,461 people failed to attend in 2012/2013, – 6 per cent of the 752,876 on the books for that year. This is up from 43,423 in 2011/12.

Neither hospital could confirm the precise cost on average per missed appointment.

The cost varies widely.

However, a number of hospitals apply a rough figure of £100 per appointment, which means the cost could reach £8million.

The majority of missed appointments are follow-ups and hospitals attribute the rise to the increase in the number of people coming through their doors per day. Basildon Hospital is seeing 600,000 more patients than in 2008. Jon Findlay, chief operating officer at Southend Hospital, said: “We continually work to help reduce the number of patients who do not attend appointments.

“This includes a new way of booking follow up appointments, where a letter is sent to patients nearer the time they are due to come in, asking them to ring and book an appointment convenient with them, rather than when they leave the clinic after the initial consultation. We are also piloting a text message appointment reminder scheme in one service area to monitor the impact it has on missed appointments.’’

Mr Findlay added: “We also try to educate patients by stating on the letters that if they do not attend without letting us know, they may have to go back to their GP for another referral, which could delay treatment.

“A follow-up appointment is booked because it is deemed there is a clinical need, so it is important they attend.”