FINANCE: Ashford and St Peter’s introduced a new appointment confirmation service this month, which it hopes will save £1m by the end of the financial year.

Reminders will be made using a combination of automated telephone calls and calls from call centre staff.

Patients will receive the reminder call at least seven days before their appointment and if there is no answer the first time, the service will ring them back at least twice at various times of the day and early evening in order to make contact.

The service will started on 15 August for most outpatient appointments. Appointments for trauma and orthopaedics will start during September and will be extended to the children and young people’s department at a later date.

Access manager at the trust, Hannah Donoghue, said: “The Department of Health estimates that the average cost of a wasted appointment is around £100. Last year, 44,000 appointments at Ashford and St Peter’s hospitals were wasted between April 2010 and March 2011.

“The cost of this reminder service is very small compared to the amount of money missed appointments cost us and we expect the new service to save at least £1m between now and the end of March next year, at the same time as giving a much better service to our patients.”