"Failed by the Choose and Book system"

About: Tower Hamlets PCT

(as the patient),

Today I went to see my GP, who decided I should be referred to a knee specialist. She explained that referrals are now done online, typed in a few details, and waited to find an appointment with a suitable specialist.

And waited. And waited. After several minutes, she explained that the system wasn't showing her any knee specialists in London. She also said that the system is almost always unusable in the evenings (this was around 7:20pm) as it becomes incredibly slow.

I mentioned that I'd heard bad things about the system, and she showed me it as she tried in vain to find a specialist. It offered appointments with spine specialists in Southend and ankle specialists in Cumbria, but no knee specialists in London.

The system was so bad that I actually left without a referral. In my opinion that is a total failure of the system.

As a software developer with many years of experience working in large organisations I've seen some truly awful systems, but this referral system really is one of the worst I've seen. Quite clearly it has major functional flaws.

Why is a GP based in London shown appointments with specialists hundreds of miles away? Why can a GP not find details of something as simple as a knee specialist in London? I simply refuse to believe they don't exist. Then there's the performance problem. How many hours of GP time is wasted every single day waiting for this system? Time which could be spent talking to patients.

Obviously much has been written about the problems with NHS IT projects, and I'm sure the NHS are aware of this. However, I'd really like to know what is being done to rectify these kinds of problems. As far as I know this system has been live for some time, but still doesn't seem to be fit for purpose.

I would also like to know how the NHS is changing the way IT projects are run in order to minimise the possibility of this happening again in future. It truly sickens me to think that my NI contributions/taxes are spent on systems like this.

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