Health Direct official NHS Blog- advice, news, information

Apologies if our Health Direct Blog takes a few moments to download in full as our comprehensive knowledge and coverage grows, so
some connections may take a few seconds to download it all. Sorry if this is an inconvenience to you.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Choose & lose- another Labour policy fails

'Choose and lose' - how another one of Labour's flagship health policies fell apart. Family doctors are warning that another of the Government's much-trumpeted health targets, which is costing taxpayers more than £300 million to set up and run this year, is so misguided that it is likely to backfire.
Days after an "astonished" Tony Blair learnt from the audience of the BBC's Question Time that general practitioners were not allowing patients to book advance appointments because of pressure to see them within 48 hours, doctors are claiming that a new system for making hospital appointments is also in disarray.
The Department of Health wants 80 per cent of hospital referrals by GPs to be arranged through the so-called "choose and book" system under which doctors go online, select from a list of local hospitals and book an appointment while the patient waits.
Doctors predict that the eventual figure will be as low as 10 per cent, with so many GPs shunning the system - dubbing it "choose and lose" - because they regard it as counter-productive. This has led to fears that large sums of taxpayers' money will be wasted.
Dr Mayur Lakhani, the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that the programme was in difficulty, while Dr Paul Cundy, a spokesman for the British Medical Association's general practitioners' IT committee, said "choose and book" in its present form was basically unusable.
The "slow, clunky" computer software was, he said, not suited to a busy doctor's surgery and had "clearly been designed by someone who had never gone near a working GP".
The BMA wants a second version of the software developed but no such commitment has yet been made.
The Government's aim of 80 per cent was itself a revision downward from the 100 per cent target for the end of this year set by the Department of Health. The revision was made after a National Audit Office report revealed that of 9.4 million non-emergency hospital referrals last year, only 63 were made with "choose and book" compared with the 205,000 the Government predicted.
Primary care trusts are now being offered £95 million in cash incentives to persuade GPs practices to adopt the scheme.
Family doctors complain that the new system will reduce, rather than increase, patient choice. Dr Pritpal Singh Buttar, who practises in Abingdon, near Oxford, said the extra choice was illusory. He said: "We have the John Radcliffe Hospital seven miles away. The next nearest hospitals are in Swindon and Banbury, both 25 miles away. I can predict with absolute certainty which 'choice' my patients will go for."
Dr Stephen Crawford, a GP in Southampton, said that the Government's drive to reduce waiting times to fewer than 13 weeks meant that a patient's preferred local hospital might not be offered as an option under the "choose and book" system.
"If you are elderly, you don't want your hip replaced in a hospital too far away for your friends or relatives to visit," he said. "The money should be spent on improving the local hospital - not on this waste of time."
Another Southampton GP, Dr John Glasspool, said "choose and book" was doomed to failure. "It's no good giving someone 'choice' - you have to give them informed choice. There isn't enough time in my day to explain five hospitals' pros and cons when consultation times are still less than 10 minutes."
Their local primary care trust, Southampton City, said that 41 per cent of the area's GPs had signed up to the scheme. But it later emerged that this figure referred only to the percentage of GPs who had returned a "choose and book" questionnaire. To date, the software has been used to make only 650 bookings by 60 practices - a tiny portion of England's 8,000 practices, which have 31,000 GPs among them.
A spokesman for the Department of Health defended the scheme. "We are working hard with the NHS to ensure that our plan to have 80 per cent of bookings made electronically by the end of the year is achieved," he said.
The spokesman said that a new version of the software was being developed and that nobody would be banned from booking an appointment at their local hospital. Doctors, who say they have been given information to the contrary, are highly sceptical.
Dr James Gillgrass, a Croydon GP who has been piloting the project for the past year, said that his patients had marvelled, not at the system, but at its slowness.
"The target of 80 per cent is totally unrealistic and because of all the problems, we've made relatively few bookings," he said. "We are looking to see whether we can get anything positive out of this."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/05/01/nhs01.xml

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home