The National Health Service Choose and Book system is on budget, the government has said, as it announced that expenditure on the programme had nearly hit £100 million and additional service costs had overtaken core expenditure.
So far, £45.1 million has been spent on developing and deploying the core system, and a larger £53.8m has gone towards “additional services and functionality”, the government said.
Ben Bradshaw, health minister, said these additional costs were “within the budget for the original Choose and Book business case”.
It is believed that the additional costs were accounted for at the start of the programme in 2005, separate from the originally announced core costs of £64.5 million.
The system allows patients to choose their own place and time for appointments. Installing Choose and Book was important move to ensure patients have “a clear choice of time, date and place” for their appointments, the government has said.
Atos Origin is implementing the system, which is based on the Cerner Millennium e-Booking software, and it forms a key part of the government’s £12.4 billion National Programme for IT.
By July last year, the system had only been used for 40 per cent of hospital referrals, under half the government's planned uptake level of 90 per cent. In September, Guy Dickie, formerly e-prescribing programme manager and prison health IT programme manager at Connecting for Health, was appointed head of the Choose and Book programme as GP uptake started to stall.
The British Medical Association has expressed unhappiness with security and confidentiality of the Choose and Book computer system, as well as the extra workload it could create for doctors.
The launch of the latest version of the system was recently delayed after the existing version gave “a couple of hundred” patients incorrect appointments.
The government said recently that it was considering allowing local pharmacists to have access to the system.