Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The benefits of joined-up IT systems

Today I went to my local GP regarding a lump which I have had at the top of my natal cleft (or ‘arsecrack’ to you and me) for a number of weeks. It turned out to be a pilonidal sinus, a somewhat rare condition affecting 0.026% of the population, but one that is thankfully curable with minor surgery.
Although I have a diagnosis from my GP, it will still be necessary to have an appointment with a consultant at one of our local hospitals (in this case St Luke’s Hospital). Until very recently, arranging an appointment with a hospital consultant involved:

  1. Your GP sending a letter (or sometimes a fax) to the consultant’s secretary
  2. The consultant’s secretary then writes to you asking you to make an appointment
  3. You then telephone the consultant’s secretary to make the appointment

Reliance on the postal services means that this can take a week.
Thankfully we now have the NHS Choose and Book system, part of the much-delayed and massively over-budget NHS National Programme for IT, described as “the world’s biggest civil information technology programme”. All of the backwards and forwards with letters has been replaced with a web site, which allows GPs to book appointments with consultants instantly online, often with the patient present like I was to day. This is especially welcome at this time of year, where the postal service is recovering from a series of strikes and has the additional burden of Christmas deliveries. Consequently, I was able to choose an appointment before the Christmas Holiday; I also had a choice of hospitals. Furthermore, I also have instructions for accessing a web site which will let me cancel my appointment online, should I need to.
This is a clear example of a change which has reduced the administrative time of both my GP’s practice and of the hospital consultant, and has resulted in the patient being seen more quickly. And it’s exactly the sorts of issues that a good IT system should aim to do.
I’ll let you know how my I get on with my ‘arse lump’.


  1. Ah, that’ll be just in time for the next administration to cancel it, then. The big big improvement was related to the storage and viewing of X-rays, which took us into this century.
    Over budget, yes, but there has been progress and there are improvements – always good to see.

  2. Yeah both Labour and Cons. have been trying to grab headlines by saying how they will scale back or cancel the project, but to do so now would be utterly crazy. The trusts have beeen through the initial pain of implementing the systems, and its just now reaching a useful point.
    I think the talk about cancelling is more to grab free voters than to actually do so, especially as it’s very unlikely that cancelling the project would save any money. More likely the opposite.

  3. Hey, I had one of those pilonidal sinuses too. A real pain in the ****, even if it didn’t hurt that much.
    They said it could be due to not drying properly after showering …