NHS in internal PR drive for electronic bookings

The NHS is preparing to launch an internal communications campaign to smooth through plans to allow patients to book hospital appointments electronically by the end of next year.

Three government organisations – the Department of Health, the NHS Modernisation Agency and the National Programme for IT in the NHS – have come together to handle the campaign, which is currently in the development phase.

A strategy is now being developed by Fishburn Hedges, which was appointed by the three bodies late last year. The agency is expected to start delivering on the strategy within weeks.

Fishburn Hedges consultant Barney Wyld said: ‘By the end of 2005 all patients will be offered a choice of booking the date and time for their hospital appointments and at least four providers for outpatient appointments.’

The scheme has already been through a pilot phase.

The communications drive will need to address cynicism among clinicians around funding and implementation of IT in the NHS in general.

There are particular concerns among GPs that the appropriate funding for IT upgrades may not be available. The profession has recently negotiated a new contract which has stipulated that all IT upgrades must be properly funded.

Ian Greenwood, acting director of the NHS Modernisation Agency’s national booking team said: ‘In the healthcare communities that piloted electronic booking it became clear that clinical engagement is vital when

you are introducing new booking systems.

‘The internal comms strategy will seek to address clinicians’ concerns.’

He said that although communicating with clinicians is a key part to the strategy, all NHS staff will be targeted.

‘We are confident that the internal communications strategy will take into consideration the size and diversity of the NHS and will suggest appropriate communication channels.

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