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Thursday, September 2, 1999 Published at 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK


£20m boost for NHS appointments system

Waiting game: Missed appointments cost £250m a year

Tony Blair has announced a £20m boost to trials of a new system designed to cut the rising cost of missed hospital appointments.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford: "The PM's return to the crunch domestic issues has begun in earnest"
The funding injection was unveiled as the prime minister opened the new diagnostic and day surgery centre at the Central Middlesex Hospital, London on Thursday.

Missed appointments cost £250m a year, the Department of Health says.

Listen to Tony Blair's statement in full
The extra cash will be used to launchcomputerised appointment booking projects which would allow hospital trips to be arranged at the patient's convenience.

But the Government hopes that this will reduce the number of no-shows - the scheme is already being trialled at 24 medical centres around the country.

[ image:  ]
Mr Blair said: "It is all part of a programme that over time I want to see extended nationwide.

"And when it is complete it will mean that the NHS has the most advanced and patient-friendly arrangements for delivering your care of any health care system in the world."

It was, he said, "no longer good enough" for the needs of the system to come before those of the patient.

"People have busy lives juggling work and family. In today's world we try to book things to suit ourselves.I want that same principle to be at the heart of our new NHS."

The additional funding, from money set aside for NHS modernisation, will extend the scheme to 60 new centres.

[ image: Holiday over: Blair back to
Holiday over: Blair back to "key issues"
The system allows GPs to make a booking from their surgery while the patient is with them.

Doctors will therefore be able to check when a convenient date is available.

But this week a Downing Street spokesman admitted that there was some way to go to finish the government's reforming agenda and said the PM would be concentrating on key issues in the coming weeks.

Keep it or cancel it

Earlier this month, a survey by the Doctor Patient Partnership found that almost 8.5 million doctors' appointments are missed each year at a cost of £152m.

The research, based on a survey of 374 doctors' practices, found that each GP on average has 4.5 appointments missed each week - almost three per cent of the total.

A campaign to urge patients to "Keep it or cancel it" has been set up by the DPP to raise awareness of the financial and time costs accrued through missed appointments.

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the British Medical Association council, said: "We're all for looking at new ideas.

"We will try to make sure it worked. The idea of booked admissions has been tried for the last year and I presume it has been successful.

"It certainly cuts down some of the patient's wait at the beginning of their journey into hospital."

However, Shadow Health spokesman Philip Hammond said: "The idea that a computer system will make people waiting months and months for an appointment feel any better is typical of this Government.

"Tony Blair is obsessed with IT. He believes that this is the answer to everything.

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