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Patient Choice Schemes

Volume 482: debated on Wednesday 5 November 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many NHS hospitals use the Appointments Line service of Choose and Book; and what assessment the Government have made of the effectiveness of the Appointments Line. (230535)

The Appointments Line provides a booking service for patients in England referred via Choose and Book. This service is available for all patients who are referred via Choose and Book, where the hospital has a complaint Patient Administration System (PAS) thereby enabling a direct booking. Some 86 per cent. of hospitals are directly bookable.

The Appointments Line is assessed monthly by commissioners against a range of performance indicators including Calls answered in 30 seconds, percentage of calls terminated with engaged tone, calls resulting in complaints. The service performs well against those targets and mechanisms are in place to apply financial deductions in the event of under performance.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the performance of the NHS Choose and Book service against its objectives; where and when the service has been implemented; what measures are in place to monitor its performance against objectives; and what plans he has for modification of the service. (230737)

The objective of Choose and Book is to support referrers in offering their patients a choice of a clinically appropriate provider when referring to hospital, and to enable patients to book appointments, electronically or by telephone, at a time and date that is convenient to them.

Nationally, the Choose and Book electronic referral system has performed well since its launch in 2004. Local benchmarking suggests that when local configuration is correct Choose and Book is easy and convenient to use, and over the last 12 months the national system has been available for use over 99 per cent. of the time.

All national health service hospitals are now using Choose and Book, along with 93 per cent. of general practitioner (GP) practices in England. There are now up to 28,000 bookings taking place every day, and 107,000 referrals every week. Over 10 million referrals having been made using the system.

Choose and Book continues to become the everyday method of referral across the NHS. Around half of all GP referrals to first consultant out-patient appointments are going through Choose and Book, and the number of referrals to other services, including community based services and allied health professionals are increasing steadily.

These utilisation measures are routinely tracked through a variety of performance monitoring processes. Most importantly, feedback from patients about Choose and Book is positive.

The scope and design of future releases is informed by the results of consultation with users and other stakeholders, including patients. Following the successful delivery of Release 4.1, Choose and Book’s next system upgrade, Release 4.2, is currently scheduled for mid-2009. This release will introduce new ‘Finding Services Effectively’ functionality, making it easier for referrers to search and select services.

The latest Choose and Book software release was deployed successfully to users on 19 October 2008. Significant enhancements were made including improvements to rejected bookings, GP work lists, reports and a new alerts page with links to system and training information. The system was also greatly streamlined—with changes to attachment descriptions, full screen displays and Directory of Service screens making the system more intuitive.