President of Royal College of Surgeons attacks Choose and Book

John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, says the Choose and Book system “purports to offer greater patient choice” but “has had the opposite effect”.

Black’s comments will not make it any easier for NHS Connecting for Health to persuade doctors to use Choose and Book. Many like it and some refuse to use it. A few doctors complain that they find it difficult to finalise a booking on the system because of technical problems. But Black’s criticisms are of the way the system works rather than the technology.

Black 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.

“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. “

But responding to Black’s comments Whitehall officials have pointed to a blog post by Helen Evans, of “Nurses for Reform” who calls on doctors to embrace Choose and Book.

Black told the BBC that GPs needed to maintain direct professional relationships with local hospital doctors to be able to select the right consultant for each patient, based not just on the type of operation and technical competence, but also on personalities.

This cord between GPs and surgeons has been cut by the Choose and Book system, which he said purported to offer greater patient choice but which has had the opposite effect.

Choose and Book is one of the four main pillars of the NHS’s £12.7bn National Programme for IT [NPfIT].  

When GPs make a Choose and Book appointment for a patient, they are dependent on the Choose and Book software itself, the N3 broadband network, several components of the BT-supplied data spine, and many components of local GP and hospital systems all working well.  A failure in any one of the applications can result in the Choose and Book transaction not being completed.

The Department of Health’s statement on Black’s comments:

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.”


Personal touch lost in pass-the-patient – BBC Online  

RCS President attacks Choose and Book – Kable

John Black profile – The Times, 2008

I support Choose and Book says GP – Pulse magazine  

Why we must Choose and Book – Nurses for reform