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Booking and Referral Standard

The Booking and Referral Standard is an interoperability standard for healthcare IT systems that enables booking and referral information to be sent between NHS service providers quickly, safely and in a format that is useful to clinicians. It will eventually be available in all care settings.

About BaRS

A patient journey - from the patient presenting with symptoms, to appropriate treatment then discharge - will often involve two or more NHS services. Booking, clinical and administrative information need to follow the patient at all stages of this journey. This often involves paper processes and using multiple healthcare IT systems which can be inefficient.

The Booking and Referral Standard (BaRS) ensures healthcare professionals receive the information they need, in a format they can use, integrated into their existing healthcare IT systems.

It will first be implemented within two care journeys:

  • between 999 and clinical assessment services (CAS) for referral or ambulance validation
  • between NHS 111 and emergency departments (also known as accident and emergency or A&E)

The experience gained from the two initial implementations will help to improve the standard ahead of making it available to all appropriate NHS services in England, such as pharmacy and dentistry, via their healthcare IT systems.

What is an interoperability standard?

An ‘interoperability standard’ describes a standardised set of rules, that govern the format, language and delivery methods for transferring data or information from any healthcare IT systems to another. In the case of BaRS, it helps a service to send or receive booking and referral information to or from another care provider for the purpose of a patient's ongoing care.

If all care settings adopt the same interoperability standard for sending and receiving referrals, it makes it easier, faster and safer to move patients through their care journey.

We are going to:
  • build the necessary national infrastructure and components that will underpin delivery of BaRS

  • provide a messaging standard that allows multiple systems to communicate with each other in a simple and logical way

  • publish a standard that supports the administrative task of booking a patient into their next care setting, as well as providing the correct and relevant clinical referral information to care givers so that they can make or accept a patient referral

  • produce a standard that is accepted, agreed and adopted by health care system providers and rolled out across the health system to improve patient experience and care outcomes

Benefits of the Booking and Referral Standard

An interoperability standard for patient booking and referrals will have several benefits.

Patients will:

  • be able to efficiently book appointments and time slots with the service that's right for them
  • get the right advice and treatment when they most need it, safely and easily

Healthcare workers will:

  • receive the information they require, and in sufficient detail, to enable them to undertake the patient care activity requested
  • be able to triage the patient without asking them to unnecessarily repeat information already collected earlier in their journey
  • send and receive booking and referral data that is integrated into existing healthcare IT systems - this avoids working across 2 or more applications or systems and saves time

IT suppliers and care providers should find it easier and more efficient to implement a single, agreed national interoperability standard, rather than supporting the multiple and varied standards currently in operation.

Commissioners and Integrated Care Systems will find it easier to integrate care journeys across care settings using existing systems.

recent government report has acknowledged the work already done in this area and the benefits of sharing booking and referral data between healthcare IT systems and across care settings:

The join up of 111 and accident and emergency (A&E) departments through digital information has helped keep A&E departments safe by enabling 111 to directly book GP, pharmacy, and outpatient appointments.

These resources are still being refined and added to as we develop the standard. Any of the content may be subject to change.

Contact us

If you need to ask a question about the project, the standard, or simply to leave your feedback you can contact us using our online enquiry form.


Further information

internal NHS e-Referral Service

The NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS) combines electronic booking with a choice of place, date and time for first hospital or clinic appointments. Patients can choose their initial hospital or clinic appointment, which they can then book online (a telephone service is also available) or in the GP surgery at the point of referral.

internal GP Connect

GP Connect allows authorised clinical staff to share and view GP practice clinical information and data between IT systems, quickly and efficiently.

Last edited: 30 November 2021 9:45 am