"Choose and book" expensive, unreliable and failing - Mark Hunter MP

February 5, 2009 4:49 PM
Mark and Andrew

Local Lib Dem MPs Mark Hunter and Andrew Stunell are fighting for a review of the expensive inefficient "choose and book" IT system

Cheadle constituency MP, Mark Hunter, this week spoke out in a Parliamentary debate about the failings of the NHS "Choose and Book" appointment system.

The "Choose and Book" system was introduced by the Department of Health in 2005 as part of the National Programme for IT. The IT system links up GP surgeries with hospitals online and is supposed to allow patients the choice of when and where they want their first appointment to be after being referred to a specialist or hospital by their doctor.

The Parliamentary debate on "choose and book" was called by Andrew Stunell, the Liberal Democrat MP for the neighbouring constituency in Hazel Grove after he and Mr Hunter were contacted by many constituents and local doctors complaining about the system. The main problems reported include; not being able to get through on the appointment line, not being able to get an appointment at the local hospital because they're booked up by people from outside the area, and doctors not able to book appointments for their patients with the specialist best suited to deal with the patient's case.

Speaking after the debate Mr Hunter said, "It's clear from talking to patients that this system is a complete shambles. Not only does it frequently crash and patients often can't get through on the phone line, but when they are finally able to make an appointment they are told none are available.

"The system doesn't offer more choice, it actually restricts it. Local people want to be able to get an appointment at their local hospital; they don't want to travel for hours to use the hospital miles away because the local hospital is full. GPs know who the best specialist is to deal with their patient's case, but are now not able to suggest them as the "choose and book" system often only allows appointments to departments not specific consultants.

"In November when I asked the Minister to review the system in light of the many complaints received he replied that it was 'one of the great success stories of the national programme for IT'. If the Minister calls "choose and book" a success I'd hate to see what he considers to be a failure!

"This is yet another unnecessary, expensive and inefficient IT system which only serves to divert money away from much needed improvements to local health services. Local people want their local surgery or hospital improved they don't want money being spent on another ridiculous and badly performing Government IT system".

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