Hospital consultants have been urged not to co-operate with Choose and Book, the IT system that will offer patients the ability to pick hospital appointment when they visit their GPs.
A key element of Labour’s choice agenda in the run-up to the election, Choose and Book promises patients the right to book an appointment with a named consultant up to 13 weeks in advance. However, consultants only have to give six weeks’ notice for their holidays.
Paul Miller, chairman of the BMA’s central consultants and specialists committee said, "Consultants should not give up the right to book six weeks ahead just for the sake of an electronic booking system. I can’t see how it can function anymore than six weeks in advance."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said it was in discussion with BMA consultants’ representatives. "At the moment consultants have to give six weeks' notice of their holidays. To fit in with Choose & Book we believe they will need to give 13 weeks notice of holidays.
"Early findings in pilot sites suggest that this involves a change in operational practices but appointments can be booked and delivered in excess of six weeks without an adverse affect on cancellation rates."
Results of these pilots will be published to the NHS in the near future, he said.