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Northern Trusts are leading the race to ditch paper referrals

According to NHS Digital, 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). 


A total of 47 hospitals and 2,479 GP practices have now switched, almost six weeks ahead of the October deadline for Trusts to fully move 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 in the north to meet the same target this month.


Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has discovered that patients on average receive their appointments eight days faster by using e-RS.


The move to e-RS also helps to vastly reduce the amount of paper used in the referral process, as well as providing patients with faster access to appointments and greater choice of when and where their appointment will take place.


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. When patients book their own appointments, the ‘did not attend’ (DNA) has been found to reduce by up to half. This means patients are treated in a timely way and practices do not need to refer these patients again.

It will also cut down on the risk of letters going missing and doctors will be able to track their patients’ referrals better.


From October 1, 2018, Trusts will only take electronic referrals from GPs and NHS Digital and NHS England are working together to support full implementation of e-RS.


Martin Spotswood, NHS Digital Implementation and Business Change Regional Head for the North, says: “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.”


Janet King, Regional Lead for Information and Technology, NHS England, adds: “This is great news for the north region. 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.”