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Choose and Book milestone reached

By Georgie Hobbs

In the same week that Pulse revealed PCTs across the country are set to scrap GP paper referrals, Government IT chiefs are claiming a milestone in its replacement, revealing the five millionth Choose and Book referral.

Connecting for Health admitted it took two years to reach one million referrals using the system, but says it has taken less than a year on top of that to reach the new landmark. It claims the true figure is actually 5.7m, once taking into account appointments amended by patients over the internet, phoning their doctor's practice or ringing the appointments line.

Despite the milestone being reached, however, figures show Choose and Book referrals only make up 45% of NHS first outpatient referrals, a considerable short fall of the 90% target Connecting for Health hoped to meet in March this year.

However, the pressure is set to be piled on GPs to drive the uptake of Choose and Book with Pulse revealing this week that half of England's PCTs are planning to enforce electronic referrals.

That is despite massive speculation that the Choose and Book directed enhanced service (DES) will end next March.

The controversial electronic referral system continues to be hated by many GPs, including Dr Peter Harvey, a GP from Holt, in Norfolk, who in a letter to The Sunday Telegraph this week called it a ‘brainless' waste of time.

Some GPs, however, are warming to Chose and Book.

Dr Richard Adcock, a GP in Alfriston, East Sussex, where paper referrals are set to be scrapped, said ‘On the whole, a wholly electronic transfer would be more satisfactory to me. Patients are being phoned by my practice manager and they are getting the time and the date sorted out much than 18 week charter,' he said.

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