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E-Referrals service to be rolled out to all GPs from next week

The NHS e-Referrals service (ERS) will replace the old Choose and Book service on Monday but will not initially offer any new services and its effectiveness will still hinge on appointment slots being made available by consultants.

In a briefing yesterday, the e-Referrals programme team said that Choose and Book will be deactivated on Friday at 7pm, and the new ERS service will launch at the start of next week, long after the intended November 2014 launch date.

The programme team said most of the early changes will not be apparent to GPs or patients, but once the service is implemented and tested they will begin adding new features, such as booking follow up appointments, a search function for local services and booking via mobiles.

But Dr Stephen Miller, the scheme’s medical director and a GP himself, told Pulse that the central issue of unavailable referral slots, which saw uptake of Choose and Book stall below 50%, would not be solved by the new service.

Dr Miller said: ‘There were all sorts of factors outside the application that have given some patients, and some professionals, different experiences of the whole Choose and Book system. Those factors themselves won’t change by having changed the application.’

He said the new system might deal with some inadequacies, and make the service more useful but added: ‘We still require people to act sensibly, to put all their services on and publish all their slots, and to not cancel, to put up patient appointments and not create lots of dummy appointments.

‘All those things that upset both patients and professionals will still be there if something isn’t done about them.’