Over half of acute trusts using e-Referral Service

NHS Digital has reported that over 50 per cent of acute hospital trusts in England have switched off paper referrals and are now processing GP referrals for outpatient appointments digitally.

The figures show that 79 trusts have now fully moved across to the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS), with a further 10 expected to switch off paper referrals by the end of June. From 1 October 2018 providers will not be paid for activity which results from referrals that were not made through the NHS e-RS.

NHS Digital has long claimed that e-RS, first adopted by County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, improves the efficiency and quality of the referral management process, ensuring patients are seen by the right person, in the right place, first time.

In April this year, Greater Manchester became the first geographical region to be entirely running a digital process. That same month saw the new GP contract introduced which included an investment of £10 million to help support GP practices to implement e-RS in primary care.

Eve Roodhouse, NHS Digital’s Director of Implementation and the Digital Environment, said: “It is really encouraging that we have hit this major milestone and it’s an incredible achievement which is the result of a lot of hard work from all involved. e-RS puts the patient at the heart of the referral because it allows patients to book an appointment at a location, date and time that is convenient to them. Not only that, but the booking is immediate, speeding up the time it takes to be treated and reducing the number of appointments where the patient fails to attend by up to half.”

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