Choose and Book 'blocks choice', says BMA

The Choose and Book electronic referrals system is blocking patient choice, the BMA has said.

Hamish Meldrum (Photograph: Wilde Fry)
Hamish Meldrum (Photograph: Wilde Fry)

Council chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said that different patients were best suited to different doctors’ skills or temperaments. Many GPs were thus frustrated that they could no longer refer patients to named consultants.

Others had found they were unable to book appointments at the patients’ preferred time, because it would breach the government’s 18-week waiting time target.

‘We're not against choice. But we have quite big issues with the government’s idea of choice,’ said Dr Meldrum. ‘This is getting in the way of choice rather than helping to promote it.’

Dr Meldrum was speaking following the launch of BMA research which found that many GPs still find the Choose and Book system slow and unreliable.

Many practices reported that the system is prone to crashing. One reported that it took half an hour to reboot.

Dr Meldrum also said that patient choice would become harder to maintain over the next few years.

‘Choice requires spare capacity,’ he said. ‘And at a time of financial stringency that’s not very efficient.’

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