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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Choose & Book numbs the soul

From Dr Phil Cunliffe


Choose and Book is the epitome of computer-related decay in the NHS. Wonderful as computers are, they sadly also create a possibility for endless bureaucracy.

What is probably not apparent to non-medical managers is that medicine is intrinsically, enormously and endlessly fascinating and rewarding. All they really need to do is to provide the right environment, light the blue touch paper and stand clear ­ the less interference the more useful the output.

Choose and Book exemplifies a bureaucratic excess that dumbs down the spirit and numbs the soul. It is certainly healthy that GPs can refer wherever they and their patients think most appropriate; we have been arguing for this for a long time.

This is in the spirit of allowing market forces within the NHS free reign to generate a dynamic and more efficient service, something the NHS seems to keep sniffing at then chickening out of.

To aid referral choice we need readily available information such as waiting times, service qualities and costs. This nicely ties in with practice-based commissioning which, in its stem cell infancy, shows glimmers of promise.

What we don't want is the cast-iron rigidity of an inflexible and time-consuming system to which we will be coerced by carrot and stick and pay lip service to with minimal enthusiasm.

Much innate enthusiasm within our ranks is not allowed oxygen because of just this sort of bureaucracy. Give us the freedom, give us the incentives and let's see if we can't regenerate the essential core of the health service that used to be general practice.

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