By Edward Davie
The Department of Health has missed its deadline for giving GPs the ability to refer patients to a named consultant through Choose and Book, with the delay blamed on the fallout from the 'pause' to the health bill.
Guaranteeing access to a named consultant through Choose and Book was one of the Conservative party's key pledges in its pre-election health manifesto, with the inability to refer to individual consultants top of many GPs' list of complaints about the controversial electronic referral system.
Currently, GPs are able to offer patients a choice of hospital – but in many cases are unable to choose which team of consultants treats them.
A DH structural reform plan published this month shows that the introduction of named-consultant referrals is one of several initiatives that were supposed to have been brought in by April 2011 for which ministers were unable to meet the deadline.
A DH spokesperson said: 'We had originally planned to publish the response to the consultation on greater choice and control and associated guidance this spring; however this has been deferred.'
'The number of services on Choose and Book receiving referrals which had named consultants available has risen from 50% at the beginning of the year, to 70% this month. This suggests that trusts are working hard to add named consultants to all of their Choose and Book services.'
Story updated 15:35Named consultants delay