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CAMHS won't see you now

Choose and Book failing 5,000 patients per day

By Steve Nowottny

Choose and Book is failing 5,000 patients a day, Pulse can reveal.

Dr Stephen Miller, Choose and Book medical director and a GP in south-east London, said one in five patients were finding it impossible to book an appointment through the national telephone appointments line after they had been referred by their GP.

‘That is 5,000 patients who are having a poor experience every day,' said Dr Miller. He added that the problem – which he claimed caused by hospital trusts restricting slot availability in order to meet the Government's flagship 18-week target – was putting GPs off using the system altogether.

‘I would be put off using it if my patients came back and said well I've rung the appointments line to book my appointment and they've told me they can't book any appointments because that hospital hasn't got any,' he said.

Dr Miller said that alongside GP concerns about their inability to refer to named consultants at many trusts, so-called ‘slot issues' were the principal reason for Choose and Book usage for consultant-led first outpatient referrals remaining stubbornly at around 50% for the past six months.

He added that Choose and Book had in the past year ‘taken a back seat' to other healthcare priorities.

‘It's lower down the pecking board within PCTs and trusts than it was a year or two ago,' he said. ‘We are finding that Choose and Book implementation boards have been disbanded or Choose and Books leads within PCTs are no longer there.'

Provisional headline findings of the National Patient Choice Survey released last week showed that in May 45% of patients recalled being offered a choice of appointment for their first outpatient appointment – down from 47% in March.

Meanwhile an email exchange obtained by Pulse reveals the frustration with the system still felt by many grassroots GPs.

Dr Kieran Murphy, PEC chair for Sefton PCT, emailed local practices imploring GPs in ‘the worst performing PCT in the worst performing SHA in England' to increase their Choose and Book usage.

‘I am saddened and not a little embarrassed to find ourselves in this position,' he wrote.

But Dr Ulrich Pfeiffer provided a robust reply.

‘I am greatly reassured that there are a great number of sane and thinking colleagues out there, who do not want to provide an unremunerated, frustrating service that is of no particular use to the patient.'

Dr Stephen Miller: Choose and Book no longer a Government priority Dr Stephen Miller: Choose and Book no longer a Government priority

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