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Independents' Day

'GPs earn £100,000 for 9-5,' says MP

As GPs' dislike of Choose and Book is taken up by consultants, how the NPfIT contracts were awarded may come under investigation ­ Joe Lepper reports

Hospital consultants are backing GPs in their opposition to the Government's controversial Choose and Book scheme.

Consultants have branded the electronic booking plan 'ludicrous' and argue it will prevent doctors prioritising the most urgent cases. They also argued it would do nothing to ease health inequalties.

The comments were a further blow to Department of Health plans to roll out the £200 million scheme to cover all GP hospital referrals by the end of this year.

A damning National Audit Office report last week revealed 60 per cent of GPs were 'negative' about Choose and Book. Just 5 per cent believed it would cut health inequalities and 45 per cent thought they would worsen.

Dr Paul Miller, chair of the BMA's consultants committee, said patients in greatest need could suffer because they may not be able to get an appointment quick enough.

He added: 'There are many unanswered questions. If all my appointments are being booked up, what happens when I need to make room for an urgent booking? Does it take into account the need to see me or my SHO, who perhaps may not be able to deal with more complex cases?'

Dr Vivian Challenor, consultant cardiologist at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said Choose and Book was 'ludicrous'. She said: 'The worried well will book up all the appointments and the patients who need an urgent appointment would be sat

at home unable to get one.'

Professor Paul Moayyedi, gastroenterology consultant at City Hospital, Birmingham, said a system that gave 'real time' booking information would be good, as long as it was run 'efficiently'.

But he added that the effect on health inequalities would 'probably be neutral'.

Meanwhile, Dr Mike Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance and a GP in Collumpton, Devon, said Choose and Book should be altered so bookings were made through PCT-run call centres rather than by GPs during a consultation.

He said: 'I think it should be choose then book. During a consultation you have limits on your time.'

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