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Choose & Book 'unfit for use'

The LMCs conference has branded the Choose and Book electronic referral process as 'unfit for purpose' and called for a major overhaul to the system.

A motion was passed describing Choose and Book as a 'politically driven initiative' designed to reduce NHS deficits and 'give the illusion of meeting targets'. It claimed the system was being manipulated by some trusts to limit choice for patients and said GPs must be allowed to refer patients to named consultants.

However, LMCs stopped short of calling for the controversial referral system to be suspended, after an appeal from the GPC.Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC IT subcommittee, backed the vast majority of criticism but said: 'There is no point in suspending it. We don't want to see £300m wasted.'

Dr Andrew Mimnagh, chair of Sefton LMC, who proposed the motion, claimed patient choice was an 'outright sham'. Dr Param Jeet Sandhu of Ealing LMC quoted Pulse's report that the budget for Choose and Book exceeded £200m. 'It's time to get rid of this very expensive white elephant and spend the money on cleaner hospitals,' he said.

But Dr Peter Wikzynski of Northamptonshire LMC defended the booking component of the system.

'It's a quantum leap from what was available before,' he said, claiming referrals used to be at the mercy of 'the Bermuda triangle of internal hospital mail systems'.

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