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All outpatient referrals in the north now sent electronically

Hospitals in the north of England move fully to NHS e-Referral Service six weeks early

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

All acute hospital trusts across the north of England have successfully switched to receiving 100% of referrals for first outpatient appointments through the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS) - almost six weeks ahead of the October deadline to do so.

From 1 October 2018, trusts will only take electronic referrals from GPs and NHS Digital and NHS England are working together to support full implementation of the e-RS. Data from NHS Digital show that a total of 47 hospitals and 2,479 GP practices in the north of England have now switched fully to e-RS.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust was the first organisation in the region to go fully paper-free for first outpatient appointment referrals last July, while Aintree University Hospital NHS Trust became the final one to do so this month.

Martin Spotswood, NHS Digital implementation and business change regional head for the north, said: “This is a fantastic achievement by all the hospitals in the region and an excellent boost for patients across the north who will now be able to manage their appointments to suit their needs.”

The move to e-RS will help to vastly reduce the amount of paper used in the referral process, and provide patients with faster access to appointments and greater choice of when and where their appointment will take place. Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has found that patients on average receive their appointments eight days faster by using e-RS.

Dr Chris Markwick, GP at Carmel Medical Practice, Darlington, said: “One of the main benefits is that patients have shorter waiting times. They also have the flexibility of being able to re-book appointments online at a more convenient time.”

Appointments can be booked online as well as through GP surgeries. Patients can use the Manage your Referral website to book, change and cancel their own appointments. It has been found that when patients who book their own appointments, did not attend fell by up to half. As a result patients are treated in a timely way and practices do not need to refer these patients again.

Janet King, regional lead for information and technology, NHS England, said: “It’s an excellent example of how health and IT professionals are working together to make real benefits for the people living in the north region. The removal of paper referrals speeds up the booking process, removes the risk of missing letters and enables both the patient and clinician to track the referral.”

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