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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 November, 2004, 00:16 GMT
Patients to book GPs via TV sets
Interactive TV remote
Patients can book appointments by pressing the interactive button
Patients will be able to book GP appointments through their television sets under a system being piloted.

The digital TV booking system is being trialled by two South Yorkshire GP surgeries but the makers hope it will be rolled out nationally if successful.

The technology is based on the NHS online appointment service, which is available to 4,500 family doctors.

Makers EMIS said it was designed to free up staff time and could save the NHS money on missed appointments.

The bookings system, which can be accessed via the interactive button on the TV's remote control, is being piloted by Ashville Medical Centre and the Kakoty Practice in Barnsley.

There is also danger that people will book on a whim and in some cases unnecessarily
Graham Archard, of the Royal College of GPs

Dr David Stables, co-founder and clinical director of EMIS, said: "Booking your GP appointment through your TV is the ultimate in convenience.

"It means an end to frustrating queues on the phone. You can make or cancel an appointment at any time of the day or night, by simply reaching for your TV remote.

"It's also a very important breakthrough for hard pressed surgery staff - because it frees up their time and saves practices money."

Gary Simpson, programme manager for e@sy Connects, a partnership between South Yorkshire's health authorities, primary care trusts, councils and the regional development agency set up to take advantage of new technology, said digital TV offered "real advantages" for GP patients.

"The GP appointments service is a great example of how the technology can be used to enhance the quality of people's lives."

Graham Archard, of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the pilot.

"This system may free up time for GP receptionists and make it easier for patients to cancel appointments."

But he warned: "There is also danger that people will book on a whim and in some cases unnecessarily.

"If that happens we could end up with even more people missing appointments, not less. We await the results of the trial with interest."

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