Choose and Book stalls after software upgrade

The Choose and Book system, a central part of the NHS’s £12.4bn National Programme for IT [NPfIT], went down for much of Monday after a new release of software was installed two days before on Saturday, 9 December 2006.

The problems will not endear GPs to the Choose and Book system. Many of them believe the system will add to their workload. Others will get used to Choose and Book, particularly as they are being paid to use it.

Choose and Book systems are designed to allow GPs to book hospital appointments while their patients are seeing the doctor. In practice the patient usually makes the appointment by phone some time later.

One patient I know became familiar with the Choose and Book system a few days after leaving the GP and receiving through the post a set of complicated instructions on how to arrange an appointment. The paperwork contained the handwritten words: “Don’t telephone for 48 hours”.

In response to my question on the Choose and Book problems on 11 December 2006 an NHS Connecting for Health spokesman said:

“Choose and Book users unfortunately experienced poor performance and slow responses to transactions during part of the day on Monday 11 December.

“The issue was resolved by 15.15 and a full analysis is now being undertaken by Atos Origi,n the National Application Service Provider and Cerner, Choose and Book’s software provider, to understand the cause of the problem.

“In addition, despite rigorous testing prior to the upgrade, two issues have been highlighted in the live application following Release 3.3 of Choose and Book that went live on Saturday, 9 December.

“The first issue occurs when viewing Choose and Book’s “appointment summary screen” after a booking has been made, where inaccurate non-clinical data is being displayed. The data displayed on the Choose and Book generated print-out then given to patients for them to take home is accurate however.

“The second issue affects hospitals and acute trusts who are in the process of migrating from indirect bookings to direct bookings using Choose and Book – typically one to two trusts do this migration a week.

“Both issues have been clinically reviewed for patient safety, which was confirmed not to be compromised. NHS Connecting for Health has communicated to the NHS a workaround for the first issue.

“Both Atos Origin and Cerner have investigated and identified these issues, as being due to the software code and both parties are working on a solution to resolve them as soon as possible.”

There are some interesting comments on the failure of the Choose and Book system on Monday on E-Health Insider – here.