At the doctors’ body’s annual conference, members voted that the Choose and Book system, one of the cornerstones of the £12bn National Programme for IT, should not replace letters from GPs to specialists.
Involvement with treatment and greater quality of care was more important than choosing a location to be treated, said London GP Terry John. “Patients want to be involved in decisions, treated with dignity and respect [and] to have their views listened to. We do this every day in consulting rooms in primary and secondary care. That is where real choice takes place,” he said.
The conference also agreed Choose and Book was a politically driven initiative to reduce NHS deficits and to give the illusion of meeting targets. It should have its impact on referral patterns investigated by the BMA, the conference said. It voted against a motion to have the system suspended.
Mark Davies, clinical lead on Choose and book said: "We never expected 100% of referrals to go through Choose and Book as there will always be exceptions, such as patients who don't feel comfortable with electronic referral. Some will be resistant to change but those numbers will get smaller over time."
To date, more than 3.5 million referrals have been made through Choose and Book. All Primary Care Trusts and 88% of GP practices are making bookings and 100% of NHS Acute Trusts are receiving Choose and Book referrals, said Connecting for Health, the NHS body which runs the NHS IT programme.
Meanwhile at the BMA conference, acting chairman Sam Everington criticised the National Programme for IT, which aims to develop 50 million electronic health records for patients in England. “What a sorry state the NHS IT system is in. Estimated costs of upward of £20bn, interminable delays, the chaotic shambles that is Choose and Book, growing concerns about patient confidentiality and security – it’s a wonderful exercise in how not to do things. Little wonder then that even Richard Granger has decided it is time he left the IT sinking ship!”
Although Connecting for Health has admitted the delivery of some systems has slipped, it maintains the programme will deliver clinical benefits.