Choose and Book denies cancer patient an appointment, saying he's dead

The danger of wrong data on an NPfIT system: a man with cancer couldn’t make an appointment because a local Choose and Book system showed he was dead.

The Daily Mail reports the story under the headline:

“Sorry, you can’t have an appointment… you’re dead: Hospital refuses to see cancer sufferer because he’s deceased.”

At first glance the story could be vaguely amusing – if you’re not the man involved; and if you ignore the fact that the government is continuing with uploads of incorrect data to NPfIT systems.

A report by University College London is due to be published tomorrow which will highlight inconsistencies, omissions and inaccuracies in data uploaded to the BT-run Summary Care Record database. The uploads will continue despite the well-informed criticisms of the scheme in the report.

The report’s research was led by  Professor Trisha Greenhalgh who spoke with force and authority at the Smartgov conference in London yesterday. She criticised the government for continuing with the summary care records without taking any notice of what’s in her team’s report. This is despite taxpayers having spent nearly £1m on the Greenhalgh-led SCR research.

Summary of the Daily Mail story:

Alan Campbell rang a local Choose and Book helpline for an appointmentbecause he was concerned that cancer might have spread to his throat.

Campbell had seen his GP who had given him a Choose and Book Unique Booking Reference Number.

When he rang the helpline a telephone operator said the systemshowed him as “deceased”.

The operator insisted that Campbell go back to his GP to “sort it out”.But the delay in a diagosis could make matters worse.

The 63-year-old widower from Little Harwood, Blackburn said: “Itis unbelievable that they could get something like this so wrong.”

He added: “I’m not one for complaining, but when somebody says you’redead its not on.”

The story doesn’t end there. Campbell – who has survived a stroke and a heartattack – tried to sort it out with his doctor and was told the problemhad been resolved. But when he phoned the Choose and Book service againhe was told he was still dead.

Campbell pointed out that he was alive and asked for an appointment but the operator argued repeatedlywith him.

NHS Blackburn told the Daily Mail  it was trying to find anappointment as early as possible for Campbell.

Janice Horrocks, executive director of Engagement Partnerships andOperational Development, said:

‘We would like to reassure patients that using the Choose and Booksystem, which allows you to choose the hospital, time and date of yourappointment, remains the fastest route to getting the quickest and mostconvenient hospital appointment for the care that you need.”


Thank you to GP Neil Bhatia for forwarding the D Mail story

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What a load of nonsense! Do you research any of this stuff before you publish it?!

If the patients record had been marked as deceased on BT's demographic service then all the Choose and Book system would have done is pop up with a warning message saying that the patient was deceased and would the user like to continue. It would not have prevented the patient being booked.

It's a terrible shame that this patient suffered a bad expereince in this situation but this had nothing to do with Choose and Book. It is a straight forward training issue and nothing more.

Thanks - that's helpful to know. What you've said, though, highlights one of the biggest flaws in the use by the NHS of NPfIT systems.

When there's a problem the patient suffers while those involved in the systems say it somebody else's fault ... it's training/data quality etc.

If you look through the minutes of NHS CfH board minutes it's remarkable how often they discuss briefly problems highlighted by the media and then reach the conclusion that the problems were not CfH's fault. That doesn't help the patients.

In this case the cancer patient could not get an appointment through the Choose and Book system. That might have been the fault of the operator, not the system. But that's of no comfort to the patient.

Successful implementations take into account all that can go wrong; and training should cover all eventualities - which is difficult given that the culture of some PCTs, some trusts, the DH and NHS CFH is so defensive.

In my view the worst thing that anyone involved in Choose and Book can do when a cancer patient is denied an appointment is say afterwards: "It wasn't our fault ..." Because that means the same problem will probably occur again and again.