BMA conference says C+B limits patient choice

  • 26 June 2007

The British Medical Association’s annual conference has condemned Choose and Book as currently unfit for purpose and claimed the scheme actually limits patient choice, echoing criticism from GP representatives earlier this month.

Doctors at this week’s BMA’s annual representative meeting (ARM) passed a motion which branded Choose and Book as unfit for purpose and claimed it was a politically driven initiative to reduce NHS deficits and give the illusion of meeting targets.

Representatives also agreed that the BMA should investigate its impact on referral patterns.

However the ARM held back from calling for the suspension of Choose and Book after Dr Richard Vautrey, a GP in Leeds and a negotiator for the BMA’s General Practitioner Committee, told them that electronic booking was here to stay and that it gave greater control to GPs and patients over the referral process.

He told the conference that the problems lay not with Choose and Book but with the way it was operated by primary care trusts (PCTs) and hospitals. He added: “Its not Choose and Book that is changing referral patterns but hospital trusts and PCTs like my own that are imposing a quota on the number of referrals that they will accept which means that local people are being denied the opportunity to go to the local hospital of their choice and instead are being forced to travel elsewhere.”

Dr Vautrey said doctors should work with Choose and Book to get it right. However consultant gynaecologist Dr Alan Russell told the conference that he has to reject 50% of the referrals he receives through Choose and Book because either they are not appropriate to his specialism or in some cases refer to patients already being cared for by other consultant colleagues.

He added: “The gold standard I still believe is a referral from a GP to a named consultant and anything that comes up needs to be equivalent to that if not better than.”

The ARM also passed a motion claiming that the government’s notion of patient choice did not offer any actual choices desired by patients.

Dr Terry John from Waltham Forest told the conference that patient choice as currently offered by the government would serve only to benefit the wealthy and the articulate at the expense of other patients.

He added: “The government should have asked itself whether unmediated choice will lead to in creased inequity because it favours those with access to information and to transport. We have a really peculiar paradox at the present time – patients do not have a choice about choice. Isn’t it time they have one?”

Dr Sam Everington, acting chairman of the BMA, had earlier attacked the NHS IT programme in his keynote speech to the conference.

Dr Everington told representatives: “What a sorry state the NHS IT system is in. Estimated costs of upward of £20billion, interminable delays, the chaotic shambles that is Choose and Book, growing concerns about patient confidentiality and security – it’s a wonderful exercise in how not to do things.”

Tomorrow doctors will hear motions calling for a public inquiry into Connecting for Health and a call for members not to cooperate with the centralised storage of medical records.

Related articles

GPs say Choose and Book currently ‘unfit for purpose’




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