Headlines: April 13th, 2000

The Department of Health has released more money to allow airline style booking in the NHS to become a reality for around five million people in less than two years time.It follows pilots which have experimented with the modernisation of previously slow and inflexible booking systems.

The benefits of the extra forty million pounds of funding will be felt widely, with at least two specialties in each acute trust in England upgrading.

In a few areas, the thrust will be towards booked appointments for all patients.

The benefits will include allowing GPs to book outpatient consultations while the patient is in their surgery. And hospital doctors will be able to book admission dates while the patient is with them in their clinic.

For patients, booking systems mean they can book an appointment that is convenient to them, plan in advance for that appointment and eliminate the uncertainty of how long they will have to wait.

As well as offering a more convenient service, a sharp reduction is expected in the waste caused by patients not turning up for appointments.

For hospitals, the systems mean the chance for greater efficiencies. For example, a pilot in East Kent has cut the number of patients failing to turn up for their appointment from 7% to 1% and the number that cancel their appointment from 15% to 5%. The number of admissions cancelled by the hospital has also been cut – from 7% to 2%.