Published: 01/12/2005 Volume 115 No. 5984 Page 18

Sir Nigel Crisp, chief executive, NHS

The government does not normally comment on leaked internal documents, but in the case of your story (news, page 6, 17 November) [on the Sunday Times' publication of e-mail correspondence between Connecting for Health director-general Richard Granger and Department of Health director of access policy Margaret Edwards] I feel obliged to make an exception.

There is absolutely no danger of our£6.2bn IT programme for the NHS being either destabilised or derailed. Any suggestion to the contrary does a disservice to the tremendous work done by Mr Granger and Ms Edwards.

Connecting for Health is delivering not just choose and book, but other key IT systems that will help bring about quicker, safer and more convenient patient-centred care.

At the recent Commons public accounts committee hearing on 31 October, I made clear that I had no doubt that the system behind choose and book worked. There is no question of the technology having failed.

I also told the committee that current difficulties in getting choose and book into wider used were attributable to the interfaces - both system and human - with other parts of the NHS. Any criticism levelled at Ms Edwards in this regard is quite unfounded.

She and her team are tackling the continuing challenge of engaging managers and clinicians, and working closely with Connecting for Health to ensure the benefits of the new IT support further improvement in the NHS.

The significance of choose and book is its potential to enable GPs to offer patients an unrestricted choice of all relevant hospitals by 2008.

Meanwhile, GPs will be offering a choice of at least four providers from January 2006, using a variety of methods, and increasing numbers of patients will be booked electronically as we roll out choose and book.