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NHS e-Referral Service kicks off in first two hospital trusts

Matteo Natalucci Published 21 September 2017

The new e-Service, launched by NHS Digital in April, allows patients to change or cancel their appointments through the portal


Two hospital trusts and their referring GP practices have become the first in the country to adopt a digital process for all of their appointment bookings through the NHS e-Referral Service.

The NHS e-Referrals portal was launched by NHS Digital in April, and it allows patients to use their mobile device to book online an appointment date, time and place that is most suitable for them.

County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are now processing all of their hospital referral appointments electronically via the NHS e-Referral Service.

With tens of thousands of referrals made across the NHS every day, electronic bookings not only increase efficiency and reduced waiting times, but also help the NHS save millions of pounds every year. The e-Referral Service removes the risk of losing letters and allows doctors to more easily track their patients' referrals if they have any questions. The new service also allows patients to change or cancel their appointments through the portal.

Morgan Thanigasalam, clinical lead for ICT at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust said, "We are extremely proud to be the first trust to achieve 100% GP e-referrals. It is just one example of how we are looking at taking a digital ethos forward as a Trust, and making our systems more efficient.”

Sarah Perkins, director of performance at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said, "We're delighted to be pioneers in the introduction of e-referrals which have many benefits for our patients.  Following their appointment with a GP at which the need for a referral to see a consultant is agreed, patients can choose to take a unique booking reference number home and make the appointment themselves.” 

Perkins added, “This enables them to see the availability and make an appointment for the date and time of their choosing, receiving instant confirmation.  When patients prefer not to do this themselves, GP practices can make the booking for them."

The old paper method is now being phased out across all trusts and from October 1, providers will no longer be paid for activity which results from referrals made other than through the NHS e-Referral Service.

A telephone system will remain in place for those patients who are unable to use the Internet.

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