The Department of Health has signed a two year extension with Atos Healthcare for the national Choose and Book contract.

The deal extends the initial £64.5m five year national contract signed with Schlumberger-Sema (since taken over by Atos Origin) in 2003, and later expanded.   DH figures show that £103m had been spent on the contract by March 2008.

The value of the new two year extension to 2011 is £65m.

First launched in July 2004, Choose and Book was the first nation-wide component of the National Programme for IT in the NHS to become available.

Ambitious early plans called for the system to be fully implemented across England by the end of 2005, a target that proved wildly over-optimistic. Approximately 50% of all first hospital referrals are currently made using the system.

Choose and Book has also attracted complaints about poor functionality, usability and slow response times. In addition, some hospitals have either restricted or failed to list certain appointment slots.

Earlier this month, health minister Ben Bradshaw told MPs that local implementation issues are at the root of most complaints.

Bradshaw told a House of Commons debate that usage was growing, with 57% of bookings made through the system in January. More than 30,000 bookings made in a single day for the first time last week.

Atos Healthcare says that since it delivered the application in July 2004, more than 11.9m patients have benefitted.

Atos Healthcare, together with partner Cerner Corporation, designed, developed and now manages the Choose and Book service.

“We are committed to ensuring the continued success of Choose and Book,” said Mark Bounds, senior vice president of Atos Healthcare.

“We are pleased to continue our support and commitment of the national Choose and Book system through our partnership with Atos Healthcare,” said Don Trigg, managing director for Cerner.

“The Choose and Book solution is the culmination of many years of design, development, testing and implementation planning, which has resulted in a functionally rich tool that also is effective in helping to deliver national policies.”


Little local difficulties with C+B

E-booking to miss its appointment