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GPs must get together

From Dr Martin Seely

Urmston, Manchester

I sympathise with Richard Granger, after the Sunday Times article of 13 November on the Choose and Book IT system.

The first most frontline GPs knew about the system was when pilot sites began to air their concern about how long it would take a doctor to book a patient's appointment at the end of a consultation.

I have just done my first 'online referral'. At the first try my smart card did not function, and when I used my practice manager's card I could not get past the first page on the Choose and Book website.

This took about 30 minutes. Two days later I tried again, and the whole process took about five minutes to generate the unique booking number for the patient and then attach a referral letter to the request.The patient now has a printout with this unique number and a password and can now ring up and book his/her appointment.

The Department of Health wants practices to do this booking for the patient, but is unwilling to finance the extra staff or staff hours that the process requires. GPs would like the generous staff allowances enjoyed by MPs. Perhaps then we would be able to fund these new services.

We have enshrined in our contract of 2003 that any new work would be properly funded. But when any GP asks about funding there is a deathly silence from our respective PCTs.

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