GP practices are being urged to complain if they face problems using Choose and Book.
Dr Peter Short, a GP clinical lead for NHS Connecting for Health, told GPs at the EMIS National User Group conference earlier this month that it was important for practices to try and use the e-booking system and to speak up if problems prevented them from doing so.
He added: “I really want you to complain. If the volume of complaints and criticisms rises there’s a much greater chance of something being done.”
Dr Short said more than 17m bookings have been made using the e-booking system, but that rates of use remain around 50-55% for first outpatient appointments.
Possible reasons that rates are not rising further include slot unavailability and system integration, he said.
Dr Short also told the conference that he believed the slow performance of GP systems was a clinical safety issue.
He said such issues were complex to resolve because they might involve hardware, software, suppliers, primary care trust informatics teams and N3. However, he also said he understood how frustrating they could be at practice level.
He advised practices to reflect their concerns to their local health informatics service in the first instance.
He added: “If there isn’t satisfaction it needs to be escalated – if necessary up to us at a national level. It’s unacceptable to have people waiting in front of screens with a patient in front of them.”
Dr Short, a GP in Buxton, Derbyshire, said primary care had a good reputation for delivering at the cutting edge and that access and mobile working would be a priority for the future, alongside data quality.
He said guidance was also being developed on sharing records with patients which he said was “high on the political agenda”.
Dr Short told EMIS users that the scope and ambition of iSoft’s electronic patient record system, Lorenzo, was enormous but he added: “I don’t see it coming into the primary care environment in the next five years because our existing systems are well ahead in terms of usability for clinicians.”
Dr Short said the focus would also be on the acute sector and said the next six months were likely to see “fewer new announcements” in the run up to the next general election.
He added: “I think that will actually be quite useful in primary care so we can have a quieter period rather than worrying about policies and new targets.”