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Wednesday 23rd May 2018

Birthing pains of Choose and Book

24th February 2008

It has emerged as the world’s biggest non-military computerisation programme and costs £12.4 billion.


That is the National Health Service’s Choose and Book system, based on the concept of patients being able to choose the treatment they want and book the appointment when they want it.

But the reality is turning out to be quite different for patients and doctors, who are not proving enthusiastic supporters of the system.

What GP practices report is a system that runs very slowly with menu lists that do not necessarily fit the problem the patient has. It has replaced the old method, and one that generally worked, where the GP would send a letter to the relevant specialist.

Choose and Book is designed to offer a list from which the GP can choose a consultant or hospital for the patient but often there are no appointments available, or the computer does not respond any quicker whether the request is deemed "urgent" as opposed to "routine".

Choose and Book can be made to work, but it consumes GP time and sees them acting effectively as secretaries during their appointment slots.

Overall, the system has improved since its introduction three years ago but it does depend on several factors falling into place, not least the primary care trust having got the hardware right.

Educated middle class patients may manage to make appointments themselves but the confused or disorganised will struggle and will "simply return to the GP a month later with the ailment still untreated".


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