Over 22,000 outpatients failed to show up for hospital appointments in the Western Trust last year - the joint worst rate in the North.
Nearly one in ten missed their appointments in 2017/18 and failed to give staff enough notice to reschedule and allow other patients to be seen.
The Did Not Attend (DNA) rate for the year was 9.1 per cent, according to fresh statistics that have been newly published by the Department of Health (DoH).
The new data show that last year, out of 222,450 scheduled new and review outpatient attendances in the WHSCT, there were 22,317 DNAs, which was actually down by 4.7 per cent on the 23,407 DNAs in 2016/17.
Unsurprisingly the highest number of DNAs were recorded at Altnagelvin where there were 154,080 attendances and 16,934 DNAs - a rate of 9.9 per cent.
The highest DNA rates, however, were recorded at Grangewood (204 DNAs from a total of 1,202 appointments; 14.5 per cent) and at Roe Valley (716 DNAs from 6,449 appointments; 10 per cent).
A Western Trust spokesperson remarked: “There may be good reasons why people are not able to make an appointment and the Trust acknowledges that on occasions it may have to reschedule a clinic, for example if an essential staff member is sick.
“Where possible we would ask patients with an appointment to let the hospital know if they won’t be able to attend and to do this at the earliest opportunity. As part of its attempts to reduce non-attendance, the Trust has in place a system for booking outpatient appointments where patients are given a choice of dates and times of clinics so a time to best fit their schedule can be arranged.
“Patients attending outpatient appointments across the Western Trust area receive a SMS text or an automated voicecall to their landline, reminding them of their outpatient appointment one week prior to their appointment.
“The Trust has also been alerting people to the numbers of missed appointment by publicising non-attendance figures in outpatient areas.”
Foyle MLA Mark H. Durkan said: “Missed appointments do not just cost the health service money but they also cost other patients the opportunity to get seen more quickly.
“People have a responsibility to keep the appointments that they are given or,at least,to inform the Trust in good time if they are not going to be able to attend.
“Sometimes unforeseen circumstances arise that make attendance impossible, however, the majority of DNAs are probably attributable to people just forgetting.”