County lagging in Choose and Book scheme

A CONTROVERSIAL system which cost Suffolk's healthcare thousands of pounds is still not being used by patients, it emerged today.

Rebecca Lefort

A CONTROVERSIAL system which cost Suffolk's healthcare thousands of pounds is still not being used by patients, it emerged today.

NHS Suffolk, the county's primary care trust, is still ranked among the bottom trusts in the country for the take up of Choose and Book - a flagship system designed to allow patients to choose from a range of options which hospital they will be treated at.

Despite pledging in February to invest heavily in the system NHS Suffolk has only managed to increase the usage of Choose and Book from 25 per cent to 27pc in June - compared to a national average of 47pc.

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It leaves Suffolk floundering in 144th place out of 152 primary care trusts, and when the scheme is used the vast majority of people simply opt for the hospital closest to them.

Yet because take up of Choose and Book is a national priority NHS Suffolk must continue to invest in the scheme and push GPs to use it.

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Bill Robinson, chief executive of the Suffolk Local Medical Committee, which represents GPs, said: “Some GPs say it is just a nightmare to use the technology as not a week goes by without it breaking down.

“Others want to write themselves to a consultant they know has a special interest in an area.

“And often patients simply don't want choice.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Suffolk said: “We are disappointed that currently only 27pc of patient bookings are being made directly, since we are committed as an NHS organisation to making sure that people in Suffolk have the best possible choice of hospital, supported by their GPs and by good, modern technology.

“We know that we have the support of GPs and the hospitals for our ambition to double this percentage, and are working hard to remove technical problems.

“We do not regularly analyse or publish information on choices made through choose and book by individual patients or by practice, but in overall terms we have not seen any significant changes in the pattern of activity in the county, with the very great majority of patients being seen at local hospitals.”

Do you think Choose and Book is a waste of money in Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail

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