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NHS tells patients all referrals will be electronic



Aims to cut number of missed appointments for secondary care by compulsory use of e-Referrals Service

NHS Digital has told the public of plans to ensure all outpatient referrals will have to be made electronically from later in the year.

It said that appointments on the advice of GPs will have to go through the e-Referral Service (e-RS) beginning on 1 October, and that it is backing up the move with a new ‘Just e-Referrals’ campaign.

The announcement comes three weeks after Eve Roodhouse, interim executive director of NHS Digital, said in a blogpost that a new standard contract for consultants will make the use of e-RS a requirement for payments.

NHS Digital said that most trusts have agreed target dates for all referrals to be electronic ahead of the October deadline, and that the move is expected to reduce the rate of patients missing appointments from 10% to 5%.

Steve Firman, the senior responsible owner for the e-referral programme at NHS England, said: “Fully switching to electronic referrals will have benefits right across the NHS, from cutting the burden on clinicians' time as well as giving patients more choice of date, time and location of their appointments.”

The e-RS was launched in June 2015 to replace the Choose & Book service, which had been developed under the NHS National Programme for IT to enable GPs to make appointments for their patients’ secondary care. But the utilisation of both has hovered around 52%, which has prompted NHS England to make it compulsory.

NHS Digital said that so far 19 trusts have completely moved away from using paper for patient referrals.

Image from Wales Audit Office

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