The BMA has rejected demands to abandon Choose and Book if it cannot be made fit for purpose within a year.

BMA Council chairman and Yorkshire GP Dr Hamish Meldrum told the association’s annual meeting that it would be “madness” to adopt such a stance.

The meeting backed a motion from Redbridge and Stratford division which criticised commissioners and providers for “the misuse being made of the Choose and Book system” to meet targets and also agreed that the database of providers and services on Choose and Book was still deficient in data quality and poorly classified.

However representatives rejected the division’s call for the e-booking system to be abandoned.

Dr Joanne Bailey, a GP in Hertfordshire, told the meeting that electronic booking had “huge potential benefits for doctors and patients” and that it was local implementation that was very varied.

She added: “In one of my local trusts the Directory of Services post has been vacant for most of the last few months so from a user’s perspective that’s a D-minus. In another local trust they are trying harder but collaboration between the trust and the PCT is not good so they get a C-minus. In a third trust I can refer to named consultants in almost all specialties and directly book an appointment without problems and patients can easily make their own so they get an A-minus. “

Dr Bailey said the BMA was investigating the problems with Choose and Book and would be reporting back on best practice.

She added: “By rights electronic booking should be business as usual”

Dr Bailey was backed by Dr Tony Calland deputy chairman the BMA’s IT committee who told representatives that 20,000 bookings were now made using the system every day.

He added: “Quite a lot of people find it very useful and we don’t want to get rid of it in one fell swoop.”

The BMA’s annual representative meeting also unanimously backed a call for access to electronic records to require explicit patient consent.

Dr Grant Ingrams from the Joint IT Committee of the BMA and Royal College of General Practitioners told the meeting that there had already been several examples of abuse of the Personal Demographics Service.

He told representatives: “Support confidentiality and the protection of our patients’ data.”