News

Surgeons slam Choose and Book

John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, has criticised aspects of the Choose and Book system which he says force doctors and patients apart.

Choose and Book is a central part of the NHS £12.7bn National Programme for IT [NPfIT]. Black's criticisms may make it harder for Whitehall officials to persuade doctors to make use of the system.

Choose and Book allows patients to choose which clinic or hospital to go to, and to book hospital appointments online. The central booking system, supplied by Atos Origin, has been in place since July 2004 and more than 50% of referrals of patients to hospitals are made through it.

But some GPs refuse to use it and others cannot use it because their systems are not compatible with older hospital patient administration systems.

Black had no specific criticisms of the technology which supports Choose and Book but the distancing effect of the system on the relationship between patients and consultants.

He told BBC online: "Using the latest technology to increase the efficiency of the health service and measure how patients' lives are improved is vital. But this must be sensitive to the individual patient and must retain personal professional judgement."

He added: "The current system in the NHS is forcing patients and doctors apart and I believe the delivery of care is poorer without those personal relationships."

The Choose and Book system he said cuts a cord between GPs and surgeons. The system purports to offer greater patient choice but has had the opposite effect, he said.

The processes underpinning the system provide "numerous opportunities for mistakes to be made, and it is deeply unsettling for the patient to be handed over time and again at every stage to a new doctor".

He added: "This is also demoralising for clinicians. For me, and other surgeons, the great joy of the job is in seeing a real positive difference to someone's life.

When you are only part of a production line, it becomes ever harder for the healthcare professional to deal with patients as human beings.

"Surgeons losing control of their waiting lists has also taken away the flexibility to make appropriate professional judgements about which patients are in greatest need and should be dealt with sooner.

"Another factor is that surgeons gauge their own ability on the outcomes achieved for their patients. If you never see them again, how can you know how you are doing?"

Choose and Book was one of four main parts of the NPfIT when it was launched seven years ago.

The four are an:

E-records system which is running several years late

E-prescriptions service which is making progress

N3 broadband network which has been delivered

Electronic booking system which is used by many GPs but not liked by some of them and a few refuse to use it.

The Department of Health said: "Providing the public with the information they need to make informed choices is a vital part of the NHS constitution launched today. Doctors recognise their vital role in this and the benefits to patients of involving them more in decisions on their care.

"GPs' knowledge of local services will always be invaluable, but the public, who pay for the health services, expect and welcome choice over their care.

"Rather than forcing patients and their doctors apart, choice allows patients to be active participants in their healthcare alongside the guidance of their GP. Choice has also helped drive up standards across the NHS in England."

The Department of Health said:

"Providing the public with the information they need to make informed choices is a vital part of the NHS constitution launched today. Doctors recognise their vital role in this and the benefits to patients of involving them more in decisions on their care.

"GPs' knowledge of local services will always be invaluable, but the public, who pay for the health services, expect and welcome choice over their care.

"Rather than forcing patients and their doctors apart, Choice allows patients to be active participants in their healthcare alongside the guidance of their GP. Choice has also helped drive up standards across the NHS in England."

For more detail see Tony Collins' blog post "President of Royal College of Surgeons attacks Choose and Book" >>

BBC online "Personal touch lost in "pass-the-patient" >>


Email Alerts

Register now to receive ComputerWeekly.com IT-related news, guides and more, delivered to your inbox.
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy
 

COMMENTS powered by Disqus  //  Commenting policy