Missed medical appointments cost the NHS in Tayside and Fife almost £4 million last year, new figures have revealed.
More than 30,000 patients failed to show for appointments across the Tayside, Fife and Forth Valley areas in 2016/17, according to data obtained by the Scottish Conservatives.
The cost in lost time to already overstretched health workers has been put at £120 for each no-show.
Conservative MSP Liz Smith said the issue was placing a massive strain on under-pressure authorities.
Across her Mid Scotland and Fife constituency, the total number of people missing appointments has increased from 28,000 in 2007.
“Missed appointments are clearly placing a massive strain on NHS Tayside, NHS Fife, and Forth Valley at a time when they can least afford it,” she said.
“Missed appointments have been an issue for quite some time and most will be astonished to learn that precious little progress has been made in the last 10 years in reducing this.
“According to these stats people don’t turn up around 10% of the time, which is obviously costing the NHS a substantial amount of money.
“This Scottish Government needs to get a grip of this issue and that means investing in new and innovative ways to remind patients of their appointments, like email, whatsapp and text message notification.
“There is also a moral case here, patients must be aware of the financial pressures that the NHS is operating under and do more to either cancel ahead of time or work harder to attend.”
Both NHS Tayside and NHS Fife said they were working to redress what is a nationwide problem.
NHS Fife medical director Dr Frances Elliot said: “Missed appointments are an issue across Scotland, and in Fife we are working to reduce them in a variety of ways.
“In addition to our text reminder system, we have also been using social media to communicate the importance of turning up to your appointments and cancelling them in advance if you cannot attend.
“The cost of a missed appointment varies from specialty to specialty, however, it’s estimated each time someone fails to show it costs NHS Fife around £120.”
NHS Tayside said it had put in place a number of measures, including an automated phone reminder in some services, and a range of messaging options as part of an outpatient modernisation programme.
The board”s associate medical director for access Dr Gavin Main urged patients to do their bit, by contacting staff as soon as possible if, for any reason, they are unable to attend hospital appointments or outpatient clinics.
“This allows us to reduce wasted appointments by giving someone else the original appointment, and rearranging a more suitable date and time for patients,” he said.
“People should also make sure they keep their GP up to date with their correct phone number and address details.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “It is every patient’s responsibility to keep their NHS appointment and it is important that they let the hospital know when they cannot attend.
“We are supporting health boards to implement policies to reduce missed appointments, such as providing reminder services through text, emails and social media.”