Patients have failed to turn up for more than 30,000 hospital appointments so far this year, potentially costing NHS Grampian millions of pounds.
The shocking figures compares to a total of 56,800 did not attends (DNAs) for the whole of last year.
This year’s rate equate to more than 1,000 per week and just under 10% of all appointments made.
According to the figures released by the Tories, of all appointments missed, 20% were for general nursing, 18% were in optometry and 17% for infectious diseases.
NHS Grampian was unable to quantify the cost of the problem as resources “do not stand idle” when an appointment is missed – but neighbouring NHS Tayside has previously estimated the average cost of £151 per appointment while NHS Fife has put it at £127.
At the lower estimate, that would amount to £3.8 million for the north-east to date this year.
Professor Jamie Weir, chairman of patient group Pact, said there were a variety of reasons appointments might be missed.
He said: “Patients should try wherever possible to attend out-patient appointments as failure to do so causes extra administration and delays to other patients being seen.
“However, there are many reasons for non-attendance. For example, too short notice and incapacity problems. If patients cannot attend, they should contact the appropriate department as soon as possible. “
Meanwhile Alexander Burnett, Aberdeenshire West MSP, said the figures showed the extent of “valuable time and resources”.
“Whilst these figures must be taken in context, it shows the extent of the problem facing health boards like Grampian,” he said.
“Tens of thousands of appointment are missed in the north-east region every year, which simply puts more pressure on our hard-pressed NHS.
“Hospital clinics in Grampian have strategies in place to address this issue, but out-patients can also help by ensuring they keep their appointments or reschedule them if they cannot manage.
“Otherwise, valuable time and resources are wasted.”
An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “We appreciate that circumstances can sometimes lead to patients not being able to attend but strongly urge people to cancel when they know they won’t be able to make it.
“Appointments left uncancelled result in wasted resources – in-patient appointments which are missed mean, for example, valuable theatre time is lost. All missed appointments, whether for inpatients or outpatients, mean that another patient doesn’t get the opportunity to be seen as early.
“Uncancelled appointments can also lead to patients having to wait longer for appointments.
“All patients, whether an out-patient or an in-patient, can help by notifying clinics in good time if they cannot attend.
“That advance notice gives staff the opportunity to contact patients who are waiting to offer them the newly available slots.
“NHS Grampian uses patient-focused booking for outpatient appointments, which gives the patient choice. The patient hears from us about an appointment, the patient contacts the department to accept that appointment or says which day or time would be better for them, and the appointment is arranged.”