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LMCs attack Choose and Book

By Steve Nowottny

LMCs are preparing to call for the suspension of Choose and Book after branding it 'unfit for purpose'.

Delegates at the LMCs conference in two weeks' time will vote on an agenda committee motion describing Choose and Book as a 'politically-driven initiative', after 16 LMCs drafted motions attacking it.

Just one motion was submitted in favour of the system and all indicators point to a majority vote in favour of calling for an end to the controversial system.

The LMC motions echo Pulse's Common Sense on IT Campaign, which calls for a halt to Choose and Book in its current form.

But as LMCs push for it to be scrapped or substantially revised, one Labour MP last week praised the system and described the National Programme for IT as 'the best IT programme in the world'.

Speaking in a Commons debate of no confidence in health secretary Patricia Hewitt, Andrew Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said he had experienced Choose and Book first-hand as a patient.

'I have seen the system working,' he said. 'The IT system is working and contractors are delivering up and down the country.'

But with just 38% of GP referrals currently being made through Choose and Book, many grassroots GPs painted a very different picture.

'Choose and Book is yet another great political soundbite that costs a huge amount of money that could be far better spent on something useful like ward cleaning,' said Dr Simon Kaye, a GP in Lonsdale in Lancashire.

'Scrap it and give the money to a private clinic firm to sort out our filthy hospitals.'

But Dr Jamie Nicholls, a GP in Hockley in Essex, said Choose and Book was here to stay.

'When it works, I like it,' he said. 'My main concerns are with reliability and the providers' scam tricks to make it appear their appointments are sooner than others – the 'appointment to make an appointment to make an appointment' system.

Dr Gary Simpson, a GP in Liverpool, also said he backed the referral system.

'The only problem I have with it isn't related to Choose and Book at all – I wish I could choose a particular consultant,' he said. 'But that choice had been removed before electronic booking anyway. I actually like Choose and Book, it has made life easier, not more difficult.'

Dr Ian Gilani, a GP in Salford, said Choose and Book suffered from a broken audit trail.

'There is a grey area between the time the hospital accepts the referral, despite listing an appointment on the PC, and when the patient leaves the surgery and has made contact with the Choose and Book administrating calls centres,' he said.

'As soon as the appointment is listed as a choice and it is selected, responsibility should pass to the party listing their availability.'

LMC motions on Choose and Book

• 'Choose and Book is not fit for purpose' – Sefton

• 'Services offered through Choose and Book must include the ability to refer to named consultant clinics as well as general specialties' – Liverpool

• 'The inflexibility of the Choose and Book tool is driving the referral process rather than the process driving the tool' – Hertfordshire

• 'One of the best things to happen to primary care has been the introduction of Choose and Book' – Liverpool

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