Libraries lend patients a hand

From today, library staff across South Gloucestershire will be on hand to help patients use the electronic system that enables them to book hospital outpatient appointments at a time and place that suits them and or choose where they would like to be treated.

All patients in England who are referred for elective hospital treatment can choose to be treated at any hospital in the country that meets NHS standards. They can also choose their outpatient appointments at a time and date that suits them.

Staff in all of the libraries in South Gloucestershire have been trained to use the electronic “Choose and Book” system and help any member of the public use it to book their outpatient appointments. Choose and Book is the national electronic system that patients can use to book their outpatient appointments or choose their hospitals.

“We make choices in many areas of our lives and now we can do the same when it comes to our healthcare. This means for example, that you can choose to have planned treatment close to where your family members live if this is convenient or you may want to be treated at a particular hospital because of its good track record. Similarly you can choose the date and time of your outpatient appointment,” said Chief Executive of NHS South Gloucestershire, Penny Harris.

“However we were concerned that some people may be prevented from making these choices because they found the system difficult to use. We are therefore delighted that librarians across South Gloucestershire have learnt how to use the system and will be on hand to help any members of the public who need it.”

Welcoming the partnership Heather Goddard, Executive Councillor Communities said, “Libraries are already providing information on health to the community through books and the internet. We are pleased to develop this work in partnership with NHS choices thereby giving patients wider access and flexibility in choosing their hospital stay.”

In South Gloucestershire figures from 2009/10 show that the majority of patients are able to exercise choice either online or via the national telephone appointment line. By September 2009, 88% of all outpatient appointments in the South Gloucestershire area were booked using the Choose and Book system indicating that they had been given a choice of appointment. This compares with 76% at the beginning of the financial year.

Source: NHS South Gloucestershire