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Choose and Book is now seen as NHS IT's poster-child

To Harrogate then, a flying visit, for the opening day of the Healthcare Computing 2009 conference.

By Steve Nowottny

To Harrogate then, a flying visit, for the opening day of the Healthcare Computing 2009 conference.

A trip to the Yorkshire spa town at this time of year is a fixture in the calendar of the healthcare IT fraternity, a chance to meet, greet and network with some of the industry's leading players.

To be honest, this year the conference had a slightly subdued air, no doubt due more to the recession that the threat of a swine flu pandemic. But even though I was only able to stay for the first day, there were a couple of interesting points in the opening keynote speech from the Department of Health's Chief Information Officer, Christine Connelly.

We've already reported the measures she outlined to revitalise the National Programme for IT in the acute sector, not least a toolkit to allow the independent development of ‘I-phone style' applications.

But for GPs, what was perhaps more significant was the context against which these measures were set.

Ms Connelly prefaced her call to action by outlining the parts of the national programme which have progressed positively. And firmly in the ‘success' column was Choose and Book – through which, we are told, 54% of all first outpatient referrals are now made.

It was important, she said, to learn from ‘the things that have gone well'. And her associated press release even trumpeted the fact that Choose and Book had helped trusts meet the 18-week target – somewhat ironic given that Pulse has repeatedly reported on the numerous ways in which hospitals are manipulating Choose and Book in order to reach said target.

In any event, it's clear the Department of Health now see Choose and Book, troubled for so long, as a success story which can act as an inspiration for the rest of the National Programme for IT. Whether that says more about Choose and Book or the national programme, I'm not sure.

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