Choose and Book won't be sent back
Patients will no longer be told to contact their GP if they call the Choose and Book appointment line and cannot get a slot at their chosen hospital.
Under new guidelines from the Department of Health, the appointment line will forward the request to the provider, with no patient identifiable information.
It will then be up to the provider to liaise with the patient.
A combination of the demand to comply with Government waiting-time targets and issues with implementing Choose and Book have caused many referrals to be sent back to GPs.
The letter to health authorities from two senior department officials acknowledged the process had been frustrating for patients and GPs.
Professor Mike Pringle, GP clinical lead for Connecting for Health, said the move was an example of systems being changed to minimise pressures on GPs.
Professor Pringle said: 'A lot of the problems with appointment availability in Choose and Book are to do either with longer waits than expected (more than 18 weeks) or the fact that secondary care has not released enough appointments and is not implementing Choose and Book in the way some trusts are able to.'