Dr Paul Searle is quite right about Choose and Book (GP, 27 October).
Being a progressive practice we decided to use it. It has caused considerable problems. The system is slow, when it was demonstrated you could gain immediate access and the whole procedure of the actual booking was done fairly quickly.
In vivo, you can sit there like a lemon with the patient waiting for the system to respond. My average booking time was in excess of five minutes.
We tried all methods of getting round this including asking our staff to book the patients later and telephone them. This was wasting a lot time and causing great problems.
The final straw was an elderly patient who attended outpatients with a Choose and Book booking, but was sent away because the referral letter could not be accessed from the hospital computer.
For the time being, our practice has decided to reduce our commitment to Choose and Book which effectively means junking it for the majority.
Choose and Book is a not a bad idea, but it appears that the IT system is not up to scratch. Personally I did not train as a GP to act as an appointments clerk, and even an extra two minutes per referral is significant if you extrapolate it to all the partners over a working week.
Despite this, some of my partners like to refer patients through Choose and Book because they feel the patients like it.
Of course patients would like a free foot massage, coffee and flowers at the surgery but that does not mean it makes good financial sense.
Dr Paul Charlson