'Choose and Book' system isn't efficient or effective, says survey of NHS patients.
7 August 2008
A snapshot study of NHS patients conducted by researchers at UCL has cast fresh doubt on the benefits of the Government's new 'Choose and Book' hospital appointments booking system.
Over 100 patients at Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge were questioned about their experiences of the process; the first time the public's opinions had been canvassed.
Choose and Book (CaB) was designed to make booking quicker for GPs and more convenient for patients, but it's been plagued with problems and criticised by health professionals. In 2006, a BBC survey of 800 GPs described the CaB system as 'poor' or 'fairly poor' and a year later, the conference of the British Medical Association described it as unfit for purpose and said it actually limited choice for patients.
Two-thirds of respondents in the UCL study said they were not given a choice of date for their outpatient appointment, a similar number said they were not given a choice of appointment time, 86 per cent reported being given a choice of fewer than four hospitals and 32 per cent reported not being given any choice of hospital.
Overall, only one patient said that they had been offered a choice of four hospitals, and of appointment date and time - the level of choice Choose and Book was designed to offer everyone.
Dr Henry Potts, UCL Centre for Health Informatics & Multiprofessional Education (CHIME), who oversaw the report, said: "These results show the reality of what's happening on the ground, surely vital when it comes to measuring to what extent this is working or not.
"This study also raises many wider questions such as what patients understand by choice and, indeed, whether they actually want choice."
"It is clear that these patients were not experiencing the degree of choice that Choose and Book was designed to deliver."
The study was conducted by Judith Green carried out the research while studying for an MSc in Health Informatics at UCL and is published online in the journal BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.
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What is CHIME?
CHIME undertakes research within units for clinical information management, telemedicine and decision support, clinical bioinformatics, education, training and professional development in health informatics, educational resource development and organisational development, quality and governance of health care.
Experts at CHIME are able to make expert qualitative assessments on huge projects, such as the NHS's vast single-database IT project - currently the subject of analysis by Professor Tricia Greenhalgh. To read more about Professor Greenhalgh's work, and about UCL CHIME click on the links below.
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