Unspecified technical problems led to Choose and Book, the NHS’s new national appointment booking service, being unavailable to users for much of yesterday.

According to service bulletins issued yesterday NHS Connecting for Health, the agency responsible for the electronic booking system: “The Choose and Book system is currently experiencing degraded service. Users of the system will experience slow responses to transactions.”

Service bulletins from yesterday stated that Atos Origin, the company responsible for delivering Choose and Book, “have identified an issue and taken resolving actions”. Choose and Book runs on software provided by Cerner.

NHS users who contacted E-Health Insider said the system was unavailable or unusable for most of Monday.

CfH bulletins confirmed that the national service was unavailable for use: “Users of the Choose and Book system may experience abnormally slow response times and failed messages.”

The latest outage raises further doubts about whether the government’s latest revised target for Choose and Book use can be hit. Originally due to be 100% in use by the end of 2005 the system is now meant to be 90% in use by the end of March 2007.

Yesterday’s failure of the national Choose and Book system follow last week’s failure of the Internet gateway to the NHS broadband network which left NHS staff unable to access online knowledge sources or even the online version or Choose and Book.