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East End GPs slam IT booking system failing patients

PUBLISHED: 15:43 12 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:21 05 October 2010

A NEW electronic booking system which has been rolled out across the NHS has been slammed by East London GPs with patients struggling to get urgent appointments. The new choose and book’ programme allows patients to book their referrals to a hospital or clinic online. But doctors have slammed it because they and their patients can't get appointments at the Royal London Hospital

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By Gemma Collins

A NEW electronic booking system which has been rolled out across the NHS has been slammed by East London GPs with patients struggling to get urgent appointments.

The new 'choose and book' programme allows patients to book their referrals to a hospital or clinic online.

But doctors have slammed it as "disempowering" because both GPs and patients finding it difficult to get appointments at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.

The hospital admitted this week that it has been under pressure to handle the high volume of calls and has had to recruit 20 extra staff to cope with the backlog.

The programme means that instead of GPs writing to consultants to book a referral for their patient, they can book an appointment online.

Or they can give a password to the patient who can ring up the hospital and choose a place, date and time themselves to see a consultant.

But GPs in Tower Hamlets will not be able to book appointments at the Royal London online until the system is upgraded later in the year.

Patients ringing up themselves are being put 'on hold' and then told there are no slots left.

It took father-of-two who David Full five attempts to book an appointment with a knee specialist over the telephone after being told by staff that the computer system was continually down and he would receive a confirmation letter through the post, which never arrived.

On one occasion he had to hold on for nearly 40 minutes before an appointment, which was nearly three months after he saw his GP.

The 46-year-old from Stepney said: "The final straw was when I got through to someone and she said all her colleagues don't know how to use the computer system.

"I would have to hold for 20 minutes because it was so slow."

He added: "The system is clearly not working. It may have been brought in to take the pressure away from doctors, but there's clearly a major problem."

The book-online system is part of the Government's plans for the NHS where all patients' records will eventually go 'online' and be accessed by doctors across the country.

One Tower Hamlets GP told the Advertier the system was "not functioning well for patients."

"There is an enormous backlog so patients can't make appointments and are spending money trying to contact the hospital.

"The main problem is linking the programme with the appointment system at the Royal London.

"GPs can't do anything and if you ring a consultant to book an appointment, they also can't do anything."

The Royal London admits there had been even more pressure on staff since they installed the`foundation phase' of the service in April, but the extra staff had helped.

gemma.collins@archant.co.uk

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