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Hospital trusts become first to fully adopt e-referral system


By Carolyn Wickware
19 September 2017

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Two hospital trusts have become the first in the country to adopt a digital process for booking patient hospital appointments.

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

With around 60,000 referrals made across the NHS every day, electronic bookings not only relieve the burden on GPs by reducing their paperwork, but it is also much cheaper to run – saving millions of pounds for the NHS.

Two hospital trusts have become the first in the country to adopt a digital process for booking patient hospital appointments.

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

With around 60,000 referrals made across the NHS every day, electronic bookings not only relieve the burden on GPs by reducing their paperwork, but it is also much cheaper to run – saving millions of pounds for the NHS.

It also removes the risk of losing letters and allows doctors to more easily track their patients’ referrals if they have any questions.

By making appointments electronically, doctors and patients know in advance which services are available and about waiting times.

This allows patients to decide on an appointment at a date and time that suits them and at the hospital of their choice.

Morgan Thanigasalam, clinical lead for ICT at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust said he was ‘extremely proud’.

He said: ‘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. 

‘We are committed to having patients and staff supported by IT to get the very best service, rather than the other way round.’

NHS Digital launched a new NHS e-Referrals website in April, allowing patients to use their mobile phone or tablet to book an appointment date, time and place that is most suitable for them.

Patients are also able to change or cancel their appointments through the system, with analysis showing that use of electronic referrals has halved the rate of patients missing appointments from 10% to 5%.

Sarah Perkins, director of performance at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said e-referrals also enable patients ‘to see the availability and make an appointment for the date and time of their choosing, receiving instant confirmation’. 

She said: ‘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 1 October 2018, providers will no longer be paid for activity which results from referrals made other than through the NHS e-Referral Service.

NHS Digital has said a telephone system will remain in place for those patients who are unable to use the internet.

For more on digital healthcare solutions, register here to attend a Healthcare Leader Forum event on the topic in Reading, Birmingham or Manchester.

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