Leaders of the Choose and Book programme this week attempted to answer concerns raised by GP representatives about the security and confidentiality of the new system.

Medical director of Choose and Book, Professor Michael Thick, told a press conference that information passing through the booking process was treated with higher levels of confidentiality that those used in financial systems.  He said the same safeguards were being built into the national health data spine.

Asked whether he thought some GPs were having difficulties in accepting the new system he said: “A relative minority are keen to be a bit negative about it."

But he was optimistic that support would grow as GPs saw the benefits the new system would to them and their patients. 

At the end of November, the British Medical Association’s General Practitioner Committee (GPC) wrote to GPs advising them of serious concerns about the new system. Their worries were focused on the confidentiality and security of Choose and Book and the workload and resource implications of the system currently on trial in the London and North-east regions.

Though they stopped short of advising members not to use the system, the committee’s cautionary note advised GPs to consider carefully the implications of being involved.

So far, the system has been restricted to a handful of test sites. Choose and Book director, Clare Mitchell, said: “We have deliberately followed a strategy which is to get success in early adopters first."

It was explained that patients would be told when information was being shared and, if they wished, they could ensure that the referral could be seen only by the referring health professional and the person receiving it.

The Choose and Book team said a dialogue had started with the GPC and that they also had a meeting with the General Medical Council, the doctors’ regulatory body, this week.