More than one million patients have failed to show for hospital appointments since 2010, research by the Scottish Conservatives has revealed.
New figures have shown that around one in 10 hospital appointments are recorded as a “did not attend” (DNA), including 176,917 in 2015.
It has been estimated that each missed appointment costs the NHS £120, meaning the issue leaves hospitals short of around £21 million a year.
The statistics emerged following a parliamentary question by Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs.
They show that, since 1999, there have been 2.86 million instances of DNAs being recorded north of the border.
In her answer, health secretary Shona Robison said while it was a patient’s responsibility to ensure they attend “the NHS has to be flexible in helping make appointments convenient to patients”.
She added: “The Scottish Government is committed to supporting health boards implement policies to reduce missed appointments such as providing reminder services through text, email and social media.”
However, despite these new initiatives, there has been little improvement in the data, and the 176,917 who failed to show last year was the highest number since 2011.
The Scottish Conservatives have said that health boards should be able to explore the option of levying fines on those patients who repeatedly refuse to turn up to appointments without good grounds.
Scottish Conservative public health spokesman Miles Briggs said:
“This is clearly a massive strain on the NHS at a time when it can least afford it.
“We appreciate, when talking about millions of hospital appointments, there will be cases of some being missed.
“But most would be astonished that people don’t turn up to these around 10 per cent of the time, costing the NHS a huge amount of money.
“The Scottish Government needs to take more action, like investing in improving technology so patients can be reminded more easily, but it’s not making enough of an impact.
“Health boards should be given the ability to explore the idea of fining patients who repeatedly fail to turn up without any decent reason.
“That would ease the financial pressure this issue puts on hospitals, and deter those serial non-attenders from treating the health service with such contempt.”