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GPs 'hindering choice' as doubts persist on Choose & Book

Choice agenda

Patient choice is being inhibited largely because GPs are hostile or philosophically opposed to the idea, PCTs believe.

Almost half of the 67 PCTs surveyed by health think tank the King's Fund said GP scepticism was the most common problem they had encountered in implementing the Government's patient choice agenda.

One PCT told the researchers: 'Many GPs seem to have a philosophical aversion to patient choice and are reluctant to engage in an informed conversation with patients about it.'

The King's Fund survey also showed that PCTs themselves were doing little to ensure that all patients can make choices. Less than half had identified patients who might need extra support and only one-third had told patients they could be entitled to financial help with transport costs.

Only a quarter of PCTs had mailed patients to tell them of the choice agenda and only a sixth had singled out the elderly as a vulnerable group.

Ruth Thorlby, King's Fund fellow and author of a report

accompanying the survey, said: 'Some PCTs are providing support, but the majority are not. This is possibly because getting the electronic systems, such as Choose and Book, to work and convincing GPs to come on board is a bigger priority.'

Choose and book

Long-awaited results of a BMA survey have confirmed GPs' disquiet with Choose and Book – with more than half describing their experience as 'negative' or 'very negative'.

Two-thirds of GPs said it was not improving patient choice and the same proportion did not believe it was user-friendly. A quarter complained that appointments had needed to be rebooked because of hospital rescheduling and a similar

proportion said a preferred

consultant was sometimes unavailable.

The BMA received responses from 279 GPs but decided not to publish the results because it 'does not move things on any further'.

GPs' said their opposition was partly down to IT problems. Dr Sella Shanmugadasan, from Tower Hamlets, London, said: 'Recently my computer kept crashing for about six weeks.'

Dr Gillian Braunold, national clinical GP lead for the

Connecting for Health IT programme, said computer glitches were being resolved. 'When it works it is very rewarding to give patients control over appointments.'

On the positive side the survey found that nine in 10 GPs said patients were getting desired appointments and two-thirds said patients had more certainty over when an appointment would be.

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