Missed hospital appointments at the Countess of Chester are costing the cash-strapped NHS more than £3m a year, new figures show.

A new appointment reminder service has been brought in to address the problem, which has been described as a ‘waste to all concerned’.

On average, the Countess loses 800 new and 2,000 follow-up appointments a month to patients who do not attend.

With every new appointment costing an average of £160 and follow-ups costing an average of £78, that means missed appointments at the hospital can cost up to £284,000 a month - or £3.4m across a 12-month period.

The new reminder service - which is now operating - gives patients seven days advanced warning prior to their appointments. Everyone attending clinics receive a text reminder to a mobile or an automated call to their landline a week before they are due to come to hospital.

Patients are given the option to confirm, re-book or cancel the appointment if it is no longer needed.

Hospital bosses say the seven-day window gives their appointments and admin teams an opportunity to reallocate empty appointments in the event of a cancellation, potentially reducing waiting times for some patients.

The previous text reminder system was only a one-way process that did not give patients the chance to either re-book or cancel. Everyone who confirms or does not reply to the original message will also receive a second reminder of the appointment two days before.

Helen Nowakowska, business performance manager diagnostics and infrastructure division, said: “It is such a waste to all concerned when appointments go unused and with this advanced warning system it gives us the chance to book other patients in if circumstances change, improving the efficiency of the service for everyone.”

With this new system it is important that patients’ contact details at the hospital are kept up to date so people are asked to update their information if necessary the next time they have a GP or hospital appointment. They can also select whether they would rather receive the reminders on a mobile, landline or opt out altogether.

This new service is in addition to the traditional letters which patients will continue to receive in the first instance when they are assigned an appointment.