All acute hospital trusts across England have successfully switched to electronic referrals for first outpatient appointments – almost a month ahead of schedule. 


A total of 150 acute hospital trusts and 7,110 GP practices have made the move to sending and receiving all first outpatient appointments through the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS).


All acute trusts managed to beat the 1 October deadline to fully move to e-RS.


Trusts that have already made the move to using e-RS full-time have reported 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.


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 a 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.


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


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 e-RS.


Steve Firman, the 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.”