NHS boards in Scotland report that patients failed to attend 771,421 hospital appointments in 2012-13, up 24,729 on the previous year. The problem costs the health service millions of pounds every year, according to the Scottish Liberal Democrats who obtained the figures.
The figures were published as the Scottish Conservatives floated a radical new proposal to fine patients for missing appointments.
The Tory policy consultation paper suggested that “punitive measures” including hitting timewasters in the pocket, could be introduced at Scottish hospitals.
The Scottish Government has so far ruled out bringing in charges. However the consultation paper, which is understood to have the backing of senior Conservatives, raises the possibility of charging becoming Tory policy, and with tentative support from Labour this means the fines could be introduced under a future Holyrood administration.
Public health minister Michael Matheson said that charging would not be brought in under the SNP. He said: “We are committed to a National Health Service free at the point of delivery and will never charge for missing appointments, which would act as a barrier to accessing health services. NHS boards are implementing ways to reduce missed appointments.”
The British Medical Association said it would oppose any move to introduce charging for missed appointments.