Over half of acute Trusts in England have replaced paper GP referrals with the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS), NHS Digital has announced.
Paper referrals are being phased out across England this year and from 1 October providers will no longer be paid for activity which results from referrals that were not made through NHS e-RS.
So far, 79 Trust have transitioned over the e-RS with another 10 expected to switch off paper referrals by the end of June.
Trust were the first trusts to start processing all of their hospital referral appointments electronically via e-RS.
A new GP contract came into effect earlier this year, which includes a £10 million investment to help GP practices implement e-RS in primary care.
e-RS is intended the improve the efficiency of the referral management process by reducing the time taken to create and manage referrals. By improving communication between primary and secondary care, the system aims to reduce the number of inappropriate referrals, ensuring patients are seen by the right person.
NHS Digital’s director of Implementation and the Digital Environment Eve Roodhouse said: “It is really encouraging that we have hit this major milestone and it’s an incredible achievement which is the result of a lot of hard work from all involved.
“e-RS puts the patient at the heart of the referral because it allows patients to book an appointment at a location, date and time that is convenient to them.
“Not only that, but the booking is immediate, speeding up the time it takes to be treated and reducing the number of appointments where the patient fails to attend by up to half.”