§ Mr. Sheerman
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance he issues on best practice to encourage patients to keep their appointments with hospital consultants; and what steps NHS trusts take to ensure that patients attend such appointments. 
§ Mr. Denham
The Department has issued three publications giving advice on reducing "do not attend" (DNA) rates.
"Getting Patients Treated: The Waiting List Action Team Handbook" was published by the Waiting List Action Team in August 1999. This can be found at www.doh.gov.uk/wtactionteam.htm. It proposed the use of a "fail safe appointment system" to improve communication with patients before their appointment was due.
"Variations in NHS Outpatient Performance" was published in November 1999. "A step by step guide to improving outpatient services" was published in July 2000. Both can be found at www.doh.gov.uk/pspp. These publications advised National Health Service trusts, health authorities and primary care groups/trusts to implement outpatient partial booking systems. These systems have been shown to reduce the number of DNAs. They enable patients and NHS trusts to agree a mutually convenient date and time for appointments. All NHS trusts have been asked to introduce partial booking systems in outpatient clinics with waiting times in excess of 13 weeks.142W
NHS trusts are implementing this guidance. Individual NHS trusts also take additional steps, such as writing to remind patients of their appointments and providing patients with a central telephone number for changing or cancelling appointments.
In addition, as part of the national booked admissions programme, every acute NHS trust will offer booked appointments to at least some patients by the end of March 2001. Development of the national booked admissions programme is being supported at individual project level by the National Patients Access Team.
The NHS plan target is that by the end of 2005 all patients will be able to pre-book their appointments and hospital admission dates.