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NHS Choose and Book IT system gives patients wrong appointment information

Problems with the Choose and Book system - part of the NHS's National Programme for IT - have led to more than 300 patients receiving wrong information about appointments since Friday 11 April 2008.

In many cases appointments went to the wrong people. This meant that patients turned up for appointments at hospitals and clinics and found they had wasted their time because they were not expected. In other cases patients were not advised of the correct appointment.

The cause of the problem is being investigated but the same software is still in use. It is not clear whether technicians have been able to stop incorrect appointments being made.

The Choose and Book system is designed to allow patients and doctors to book hospital appointments online at a time and location of choice. Before, hospitals notified patients by letter of their appointments.

As a result of the problems NHS Connecting for Health, which runs part of the National Programme for IT [NPfIT] has said that a new release of Choose and Book software, version 4.0 was postponed. It had been due to be installed last weekend.

The software would have allowed patients and doctors to book online at any hospital of their choosing in or outside the local area.

NHS Connecting for Health is being open about the difficulties. Its spokesman said only a small number of patients have been affected - about 340 - since Friday. The system has handled millions of hospital appointments. All patients known to have been affected have been contacted. He said: "The programme continues to run on the current 3.6 release while NHS Connecting for Health works closely with Choose and Book's principal supplier and their sub-contractors to resolve the issue affecting a relatively small number of patient bookings."

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