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Health minister John Hutton said he welcomed the Audit Office's report. "It confirms that providing greater choice over hospital treatment will deliver very real benefits to patients," he said.
He added that the report acknowledged that primary care trusts and GPs were moving in the right direction to deliver choice by the end of this year.
"We have implemented the choice IT programme in stages. First we procured the equipment, second we made sure it worked, now the challenge is to roll out the service across the NHS. That is why since the autumn, as planned, we have intensified our efforts to engage with GPs. More than 2,500 GPs have already been involved in developing systems to support choice and booking, and this engagement will increase during this important next stage of implementation."
The Department of Health quoted the Audit Office's report as acknowledging the substantial progress that has been made so far.
It also quoted Gillian Braunold, joint clinical lead for GPs at the national programme for IT, who said, "GPs want to enable choice and there is plenty of scope for positive engagement. I am optimistic that the profession will respond positively to the choice and access agenda using both IT and other means to make it happen."