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North leads the way in ditching paper for hospital appointments

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).

All acute hospital trusts across the north of England2 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 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.

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

Dr Chris Markwick, GP at Carmel Medical Practice, Darlington, said: “One of the main benefits is that patients have shorter waiting times. They also have the flexibility of being able to re-book appointments online at a more convenient time.”


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Notes to editors

  1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of 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.  During the 2016/17 financial year, NHS Digital published 292 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.
  2. Full list of trusts in the NHS England North region can be found on the NHS England website.  
  3. For media enquiries please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888.

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Last edited: 28 September 2020 3:56 pm