Sheryl Hackett was so fed up with having to wait for an urgent appointment for five-month-old son, Huey, she opted for private healthcare.
Today, she urged people not to abuse the system after it was revealed 182,923 outpatients’ appointments were missed in the last financial year across the whole county.
Sheryl, from Clayton-le-Woods, said: “If you do not need an appointment cancel it. We were desperate for an appointment and someone cancelling an unwanted one could have made all the difference.”
The Health and Social Care Information Centre reveal that the estimated cost of an outpatients’ appointment is £108 - meaning £20m of NHS cash was wasted in Lancashire last year.
Sheryl, 31, said: “Huey stopped breathing in April and was rushed to the Royal Preston Hospital where he was diagnosed with severe reflux.
“We were given a follow-up appointment for mid-July but were told if his condition worsened we were to let them know and they would bring the appointment forward.”
When Huey wasn’t seen to be getting any better, Sheryl contacted Chorley Hospital where she had been referred to see a paediatrician and was told that there were no appointments for two months.
Sheryl said: “When your baby is screaming in pain every night, it’s just too long to wait.
“My GP and health visitor both contacted this particular paediatrician but nothing changed.”
In the end, Sheryl took the decision to go and see a private doctor, spending hundreds of pounds.
Patient Sarah Kennett, 40, from, Lostock Hall has a tumour in her eye socket and faces a wait of up to eight weeks for ophthalmology services.
Mum-of-two Sarah said: “It’s very annoying if people just don’t turn up when people are having to wait so long, often in pain or feeling anxious.
“My GP said she would make an urgent referral, which she did and that an urgent referral is two weeks to be seen.
“When I rang I was told an urgent referral is six to eight weeks. That is not what I read on the NHS guide of referral times.”
Officials say missed appointments may be due to the patient being too ill to attend, forgetting about an appointment or a failure in the process, for example where a patient has been admitted to hospital but the appointment has not been reallocated.
However, patients say there are sometimes issues regarding the appointment process.
Jonathan Berisford said he received a reminder for an appointment after the appointment time. He said: “Then I received letters that were quite snotty saying how much NHS time I had wasted.”
A missed appointments figure for Preston and Chorley hospitals could not be provided yesterday.
However, Karen Partington, chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals - which has a text message reminder service - said: “We completely understand that sometimes people are unable to make it to their appointment but we kindly ask if you can let us know at the earliest opportunity so that we can promptly rearrange another appointment for you and can also fill that appointment slot so that it isn’t wasted.”
Sue Moore, chief operating officer at Lancashire Care, added: “Wasted appointments not only cost money but can prevent other patients being seen quicker.”