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‘Successful’ Choose and Book escapes cuts



By Ian Quinn

The Government has hailed the controversial Choose and Book system as a success and saved it from the axe while announcing £700m of cuts in other IT projects.

The Department of Health said it would make more than double the £600m savings already announced by Labour, by switching to a ‘connect all’ rather than ‘replace all’ IT strategy, along with a ‘more locally led plural system of procurement’.

But health minister Simon Burns said the National Programme for IT ‘has delivered a national infrastructure for the NHS, and a number of successful national applications such as Choose and Book’.

He added: ‘Improving IT is essential to delivering a patient-centred NHS. But the nationally imposed system is neither necessary nor appropriate to deliver this.’

Pulse last week revealed usage of Choose and Book had stalled in the last 12 months and fallen since last October, with 53% of all GP referrals to first outpatient appointments booked through the system in June 2010 – the same as in June 2009, and down from 56% last October.

But the DH indicated that GP consortia should maintain and invest in the system as they take over from PCTs.