PATIENTS who fail to turn up for hospital appointments have been criticised by Blackburn's top hospital boss.

Ian Woolley, chairman of the Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley NHS Trust, which runs Queen's Park Hospital and Blackburn Royal Infirmary, hit out at time-wasting patients who did not keep appointments, because others could have used them.

Mr Woolley said the trust was doing everything it could to cut down on 'do not attends', but patients also had a responsibility to help cut them and to let staff know if they could not attend.

He said: "We would urge the public to try to keep appointments if they have them. People moan and moan about waiting times at hospitals and yet 10 per cent of our patients don't bother to turn up."

Non-attendance accounted for 11.8 per cent of the trust's appointments between October and December 2001.

Of those with first appointments, 1,874 did not turn up out of 14,092, while 4,408 patients did not turn up for follow-up appointments, out of a total of 33,014.

The figures are slightly below the average across the North West region, which is running at around 14 per cent.

The trust recently introduced a scheme where patients can choose the date of their own appointments in some departments, so they are convenient.

It also has a policy of sending out reminder letters to those with imminent appointments.

Richard Gildert, director of nursing and quality for the trust, said: "There is an awful lot of work done in trying to manage non-attendees, but we still have them."

Board members decided to look at whether some follow-up appointments issued by departments automatically were really necessary.

Non-executive board member Eileen Scott said: "There are two sides to this I think. Maybe some of these follow-up appointments are just not needed."