Attendance rates for outpatient appointments vary significantly between trusts and regions, analysis by Dr Foster and HSJ reveals.

The figures, which cover the period from September 2008 until August 2010, show attendance rates fell slightly year on year from 82.9 per cent to 82 per cent in spite of a 12.5 per cent surge in the number of outpatient appointments to about 84 million in 2009-10.

Attendance rates take into account unexpected failures to attend and appointments cancelled by both the trust and patient

Of the 147 trusts analysed, 30 had attendance rates below 70 per cent, 28 between 70 and 79 per cent, 37 between 80 and 89 per cent and 52 above 90 per cent.

The figures for all NHS hospital providers and commissioners are available today on

The Royal Free Hampstead and Barts and the London trusts had the worst attendance rates at 60 and 62 per cent, reflecting a general trend in poor attendance rates across London.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Free accepted the number of cancelled and missed appointments was too high and said the trust had implemented several measures, including trialling a text message reminder service.

Barts introduced a text message reminder service in August, which a spokeswoman claimed had reduced did not attend rates by a third.

She said: “In contrast to many other trusts, our patient population tends to be more transient and less affluent. English is not the first language for many, while others have complex social issues - all factors which contribute to higher levels of hospital non-attendance.”

At 94 per cent, Plymouth Hospitals Trust had one of the highest attendance rates and recorded just 62 cancellations out of more than a million appointments during the period.

Director of operations Richard Best said that was in part due to the trust needing to cancel relatively few appointments. “One of the most important things has been around the clinical body in terms of sticking to leave policy and giving us the required eight weeks notice [of holiday plans],” he said. “This means we can be really certain about capacity.”

Nationally the figures show higher cancellation and did not attend rates during the winter months with January 2010 particularly high.

A separate analysis of did not attend and cancellation rates for 2008-09 and 2009-10 by the NHS Information Centre showed men and people in their 20s had the worst attendance rates.

Men missed 3.1 million appointments, equivalent to nearly 9 per cent of their appointments, while women missed 7.3 per cent. Among patients in their 20s, for every seven appointments attended one patient failed to turn up.