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Booklets short on key data

Booklets sent to every practice to enable GPs and staff to help patients choose a hospital do not contain enough information, GPs believe.

GPs said the booklets needed to give details of individual consultants to enable patients to make a sufficiently informed choice.

The booklets outline the services, facilities and transport arrangements at a minimum of four hospitals commissioned by each PCT.

They also contain a range of 'traffic-light' Healthcare Commission ratings and statistics including waiting times, cancelled operations and MRSA rates.

The Department of Health said GPs were among a range of primary care and community staff who would 'support' patients in making decisions and using the information contained in the booklets.

But GPs said patients would demand more information, particularly about individual consultants, during a consultation.

Dr John Lockley, a GP in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, said getting the right specialist for an individual patient was vital.

He said: 'Sometimes there are specific doctors I want the patient to see, and just occasionally there are specific doctors I want them to avoid.'

Dr Paul Bowskill, a GP in Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, described the booklets as 'window dressing'. He said: What if the only hospital they can realistically get to is felt to provide a less good service?'

Dr David Bellamy, a GP in Bournemouth, said: 'It is usually up to us to recommend the most appropriate consultant and there is often only one or two choices within a hospital or group of hospitals.'

The department said it was up to each trust to release data on individual consultants.

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