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Trusts and GP practices beat deadline for moving to e-referrals

All 150 acute trusts in England, and 7,110 GP practices, have switched off paper referrals and moved to an electronic system, NHS Digital has said.

It said this has come ahead of a 1 October deadline to move to the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS).

The deadline was set out as part of this year’s GP contract, although NHS England has said that contractual action will be a last resort and practices will not be penalised if it is not fully implemented in their locality due to IT issues.

According to NHS Digital, trusts which have already made the move to e-RS report that patients on average receive appointments eight days faster, that the number of patients that fail to attend appointments has dropped by up to half and patients have greater control over their appointments.

NHS Digital said it also saved vast amounts of papers, cut down on the risk of letters going missing and allowed doctors to more easily trace referrals.

From 1 October 2018, trusts will only take electronic referrals from GPs.

Steve Firman, senior responsible owner for the e-RS programme at NHS England, said: ’The NHS e-Referrals service works safely and quickly, it is a fantastic achievement all 150 acute hospital trusts are now on board ahead of the 1 October deadline.

‘This is a result of months of hard work by trusts, their healthcare communities, CCGs and staff at NHS England and NHS Digital who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the system is ready in time.’ 

Dr Stephen Miller, national medical director of the e-RS programme within NHS Digital, said: ’Universal use of the NHS e-Referral Service will have a big impact on improving the referral process for both doctors and patients, including enhancing communication between clinicians.

’This will result in fewer missed appointments, greater choice for patients and also a reduced number of unnecessary referrals, thanks to the Advice and Guidance function that allows GPs and consultants to discuss a patient’s course of treatment before a referral is considered.’