Six million appointments via NPfIT Choose and Book system - potentially good news

NHS Connecting For Health which runs part of the NHS’s National Programme for IT, announced yesterday [22 January 2008] that the Choose and Book electronic referrals system has “broken through the six million patients milestone”.

NHS CfH said:

“By the second week of January the total number of patients referred from GP surgeries into specialist care under the Choose and Book system reached a total of 6,066,395.

“This achievement comes less than three months after the five million referrals target was reached in early November 2007.

“All NHS hospitals are now using Choose and Book, along with 90 per cent of GP practices in England. This is a clear indication that Choose and Book is becoming the everyday method of referral.

“As use increases steadily, it is patients who are benefiting most from the convenience of Choose and Book’s referral service. They are able to book their appointments electronically at a place, date and time that is convenient to them and they no longer have to put their life on hold while they wait to hear back from a hospital for when their appointment will be.”

This is good news. To ensure that I have understood the figures, I’ve put some questions to CfH:

a) Can you let me know please how many of the six million are direct bookings and how many are indirect?

b) Am I right to think that direct bookings need not involve phone calls to make bookings because GPs systems are compatible with the hospital patient administration systems and indirect bookings involve phone calls because GP and hospital systems are not compatible?

c) I’ve noticed that it’s possible for trusts to report referrals of more than 100% by including referrals for advice and guidance and bookings through clinical assessment services. How is this possible please?

d) Can the Choose and Book referral figures be relied on if trusts can report referrals of more than 100%?

The signs are that CfH will reply promptly.

There will be a separate blog entry on how NHS trusts are reporting mixed experiences of the Choose and Book system. Some NPfIT-watchers may quote that aphorism about how statistics are sometimes used as a drunken man uses a lamp-post: for support not illumination. But the Choose and Book system may yet turn out to be a success. The challenge is not to despair waiting for it.


Latest NPfIT deployment statistics

Five million patients benefit from Choose and Book – déjà vu?

Early warning of Choose & Book flaws could help ensure success

British Medical Association advice on Choose and Book – August 2007

Choose and Book – wikipedia