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NHS e-Referral Service saves £10million in first year

7 September 2016

Development of new features now underway

The NHS e-Referral Service2 has saved the NHS £10million in its first year of operation, following redevelopment by NHS Digital.

The achievement was paralleled by 10 million referrals also being made by the electronic booking system in the same time period.

The millions of pounds in savings have mostly been achieved as a result of the service being built in-house by NHS Digital, in collaboration with software specialists BJSS. This has led to a 60% reduction in running costs compared to the Choose and Book system, which the NHS e-Referral Service replaced in June 2015.

Additional features are also being added in response to what GPs, hospital trusts and patients said they wanted from the NHS.

This includes development of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which will enable GP clinical systems, secondary care provider systems and third party applications to interact with the NHS e-RS directly, removing the need for users to swap between their applications and the professional user interface. It is expected that the first set of pilot APIs will be delivered to third party users by the end of 2016.

In response to feedback from users, an alert function has now been set up to improve communication about the service. The system alerts allow messages to be sent directly to users of the NHS e-Referral Service from within the application, enabling them to keep up to date with the latest system and service information.

Ahead of wider roll out, the service is also currently piloting capacity alerts, designed to help referrers to guide patients in choosing the most appropriate services according to availability of appointments and Referral to Treatment Time. Separate to this, improvement of the Service Search screens has made waiting time information more prominent.

Beverley Bryant, Director of Digital Transformation at NHS Digital said: "The NHS e-Referral Service is a great example of how we are working to revolutionise the way the NHS connects with its patients.

"Like the NHS Spine, which was redeveloped two years ago, the NHS e-Referral Service is benefiting from new software and agile working. Together, the systems have saved the NHS more than £70million, demonstrating the ways in which technology can benefit the NHS.

"The feedback we get from users is vital to ensure that we build a service that works for them, and we will continue to engage with patients and clinicians to build a service that fits their needs."

More than 50 million referrals were transferred to the NHS e-Referral Service from Choose and Book and the new system handles around 40,000 referrals every day.

It is estimated that if all secondary care acute trusts used the NHS e-Referral Service effectively, the health service could save up to £50.5m a year.3


Notes to editors
1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology provider for the health and care system. Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better. NHS Digital is the new trading name for the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). We provide 'Information and Technology for better health and care'. Find out more about our role and remit at

2. The NHS e-Referral Service combines electronic booking with a choice of place, date and time for first hospital or clinic appointments.

3. Source: NHS Waiting Times for Elective Care in England, National Audit Office 2014

4. For media enquiries, please contact the press office on 0300 303 3888 or

Last edited: 11 April 2018 5:37 pm