Headlines: September 3rd, 1999

The NHS on line system for booking hospital appointments has been extended with the launch of a further 60 sites. The first 20 pilot sites went live in September 1998. On line booking allows GPs to book hospital appointments before patients leave the surgery. It also allows hospital consultants to book appointments and dates for operations that are convenient to patients.

On-the-spot booking will change the way the NHS organises care and it will change patient relationship with the NHS. The system benefits hospitals by replacing staff intensive appointment systems and helps in planning a whole package of care. It should also lead to a reduction in the million or so missed appointments each year. For the patient it gives a share in the decision making about when the appointment should take place and it removes the uncertainties in the current systems of waiting for a letter advising the allocated date.

The on line system will be extended progressively and when it is fully rolled out it will be the most technologically advanced in the world.