§ Mrs. Ewing
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, pursuant to his answer of 21 January 1999,Official Report, column 518, on NHSnet, what assessment he has made of the number and proportion of hospital appointments being made through NHSnet; what the average waiting time is between placing a request for information on NHSnet and obtaining the information; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Galbraith
The Government are committed to developing an electronic booking system by 2002 which will allow patients to know the date and time of any hospital outpatient appointment before leaving their GP surgery.
At present electronic appointment booking is taking place at a small number of pilot sites while a number of key building blocks are put in place to deliver this commitment, including:
- Linking all NHS in Scotland organisations to the NHSnet
- Electronic links between GPs and hospitals enabling the fast secure transmission of messages between primary and secondary care
- Using the Community Health Index (CHI) number in all NHS computer bases systems to identify patients and relevant information about them whenever they are treated
- Training for health care staff to carry out tasks using information technology
An appropriate form of assessment will be put into place as the system develops. From 1 July 1999 this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.