Attending appointments

Category: 2getherThe Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) collects detailed data from mental health providers on their activities, in what’s called the Mental Health Minimum Data Set (MHMDS). Then the HSCIC publishes various summaries of the data, but these can take a long time to appear.

Some interesting summaries of the data for the year March 2011 – April 2012 were published in early 2013, taking nearly a year to appear. Among them are figures for the number of people who actually turn up to appointments, which vary enormously from place to place.

The figures are in the Mental Health Bulletin for 2011-12, partially published in February 2013 and completed in April, in Organisational Reference Table 6b: Proportion of attended outpatient and community contacts by NHS commissioner.

These figures are based on the numbers of what the MHMDS calls “events” — planned attendances at daycare facilities, and planned contacts with healthcare professionals (including community psychiatric nurses, consultants, and care coordinators). The outcome of each event is recorded as “attended” if the patient was seen (even if the patient arrived late). It’s recorded as “not attended” if the appointment was cancelled or postponed, or if the patient arrived too late to be seen or didn’t turn up at all.

Then the percentage of these appointments that were attended is calculated for each of the commissioners of NHS services in England, which in 2011-12 were almost all primary care trusts (PCTs).

The median, or most typical, result was around 88%, meaning that about 7 out of 8 patients with these planned appointments attended. This seems to me quite poor, but it’s in line with various comments I’ve come across in the past about patients often failing to attend NHS appointments. The thing that really surprises me is the wide range of results.

Solihull PCT came out top, reporting that 14,203 patients (96.8%, or about 29 in every 30 patients) were seen out of 14,668 appointments made over the course of the year. Blackpool PCT came bottom, reporting that only 3,470 patients (8.1%, or about 1 in every 12 patients) were seen out of 42,658 appointments made.

The 2gether trust provides mental health services in Gloucestershire (its home county) and in Herefordshire. Reported attendances in Gloucestershire were dismal, with only 73,129 (35.6%, just over a third) of appointments attended out of 205,417 . This put Gloucestershire in 139th position amongst the 151 PCTs. Reported attendances in Herefordshire, however, were superb, with 30,984 (93.2%, about 14 in every 15) of appointments attended out of 33,227. This put Herefordshire in 5th position.

I have no idea what to make of the wide variations in these figures. Here’s a chart showing the distribution of results for all PCTs:



About Rod

Chairman of the Gloucestershire charity Suicide Crisis, Vice Chair of Relate Gloucestershire & Swindon, and an enthusiast for public involvement in the NHS.
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