The government's patient choice target is proving too tough for many trusts, the health check reveals.

The Department of Health set a target that, from December 2005, all patients would be able to choose from at least four healthcare providers for planned hospital care, paid for by the NHS. A key part of this is the choose and book programme, which gives patients a choice of outpatient services.

But only 11 per cent of primary care trusts achieved the target of 90 per cent choose and book utilisation by March 2007. Patients in just 9 per cent of trusts said they had been offered a choice of hospital and a choice booklet.

Commission chief executive Anna Walker said reasons for poor performance included IT problems and the fact that GPs were not contracted to provide choose and book.

For more HSJ coverage of the health check, click here