Department of Health officials are warning of widespread confusion next week when the choose and book system is automatically upgraded.
NHS Connecting for Health’s medical director for choose and book, Stephen Miller, said some primary care trusts were failing to give priority to the system, with the result that some GPs were not aware of the imminent changes.
He said some PCTs no longer had dedicated choose and book leads: “It’s dwindled away [and] those people have been given other jobs.
“If the PCT gives the impression choose and book isn’t a top priority then it disappears as a priority for GPs too.”
Connecting for Health officials say the latest upgrade is an improvement because it allows GPs to search for provider services and clinicians using international standardised terms, known as SNOMED.
They will also be able to narrow searches for particular treatments or conditions by patient age and gender.
This means GPs should be able to refer patients to the most relevant services in the shortest possible time.
But Dr Miller said he was concerned GPs would be confused when the new system automatically goes live on 30 June as the program would “look completely different”.
He said: “We hope that when GPs switch on their systems on 29 June this won’t be a surprise, but we fear it might be because the training message hasn’t got to GPs.”
“We have provided interactive training tools, but are relying on [PCTs] cascading them down. Even if they do that well they are dependent on the GP practice staff turning up [to training events]. There are lots of places where it can break down.”
PCT Network director David Stout dismissed the notion that PCTs had downgraded choose and book.
He said: “PCTs understand the importance of the role of choose and book and have worked hard to ensure GPs are well prepared for this latest stage.”
He added: “Any computer system will have its teething problems but we are confident that PCTs and GPs will work together to address any problems.”
PCTs should have already offered training to all GPs in the new search methods, but if not, or if GPs wish to refresh themselves, a simple, short presentation is available at www.chooseandbook.nhs.uk/r4.2