The National Health Service has postponed the launch of the latest version of its appointments system after the existing version gave “a couple of hundred” patients incorrect appointments.
Release 4.0 of the £65 million Choose and Book electronic appointments system was due to go live last Saturday, as part of the £12.4 billion Connecting for Health programme.
The system is being rolled out by Atos Origin, and the newest version would have meant patients being referred to hospitals could choose appointment times in other parts of the country.
But one day before its launch, the current release, version 3.6, experienced problems and several hundred patients were given incorrect appointments. As a result, some patients received appointments they had not been referred for, and others turned up for appointments when they were not expected.
An NHS Connecting for Health spokesperson said in a statement that the current system would continue to be used until the problems were resolved. “The programme continues to run on the current 3.6 release while NHS CfH works closely with Choose and Book's principal supplier and their sub-contractors to resolve the issue affecting a relatively small number of patient bookings,” the spokesperson said.
But with data being sent to the wrong patients, privacy concerns are likely to be raised.
The spokesperson said: “From the evidence we have available to us today we believe that patient confidentiality has not been breached. We are monitoring this extremely closely.”
Last May, a problem with the integration of the patient administration system and the Choose and Book outpatient appointment booking system led to hundreds of duplicate patient records being created.
By July last year, the system had only been used for 40 percent of hospital referrals, under half the government's planned uptake level of 90 percent.
In September, Guy Dickie, formerly e-prescribing programme manager and prison health IT programme manager at Connecting for Health, was appointed head of the Choose and Book programme as GP uptake started to stall.
The British Medical Association has expressed unhappiness with security and confidentiality of the Choose and Book computer system, as well as the extra workload it could create for doctors. Last year, in a letter raising a series of concerns about NPfIT with health minister Ben Bradshaw, the BMA called on the government to work with it on “continuing issues”.
The government said recently that it was considering allowing local pharmacists to have access to the system.