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Benefits - realising the NHS e-Referral Service benefits

Find out the how the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS) benefits different users.


The NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS) application is not just a technical process. It is about redesigning outpatient referral pathways across Primary and Secondary care to improve the patient outcomes and experience. The main challenges and benefits come from incorporating the technical tools with the clinical and business processes to ensure that all patients are offered clinically appropriate choices, and their referral is managed in accordance with their needs. e-RS creates benefits throughout the referral process for patients and the NHS. It results in a better patient experience due to greater certainty of appointment, and a better experience throughout the NHS. A more efficient referral system reduces burden and eliminates much of the paperwork and time lag associated with non-electronic referrals. As well as transforming the patient experience of the NHS, clinicians and NHS staff will also see real benefits.

The vision

The creation of a smart referral ecosystem, planning and directing patients to the right care, at the right time, in the most appropriate setting; an ecosystem which supports patients to access a wider range of health and wellbeing services to reduce the growing demand burden on services, across the continuum of care.

The mission

Our mission is to deliver an any-to-any booking, triage, referral and appointment management ecosystem for health and social care, that is the first choice for care professionals, administrators, and health systems by 2025.

Benefits for primary care clinicians (GPs and GDPs) and their practice staff

  • referrers have a full directory of all the secondary care services available under Free Choice via the Directory of Services as well as those services locally commissioned by their Integrated Care Board
  • where they are unable to complete the booking themselves at the time of the appointment, referrers and practice staff can direct the patient to use the e-RS patient booking website (Manage your Referral), which is also available via the NHS App, or the (telephone) Appointments Line
  • flexibility in e-RS means the referral process can be adapted to suit different working conditions
  • referrers can identify services with shortest waiting times through service selection.
  • referrers can access service specific guidance to help them to shortlist the most appropriate services and to highlight any helpful preliminary investigations
  • referrers are able to seek advice and guidance from specialists prior to, or instead of sending a referral, supporting the development of better referral pathways and closer collaboration with secondary care colleagues
  • referrers and practice staff can track the progress of a patient’s referral through the e-RS
  • referrers and their practice staff have much greater access to their patients' care management plans, ensuring that the correct appointments are made
  • referrers and practice staff see a reduction in the amount of time spent on the paper chase and bureaucracy associated with previous manual referral processes

Benefits for secondary care consultants and booking staff

  • consultants have the opportunity, through the use of advice and guidance, of a dialogue with referrers to ensure patients are booked into the most appropriate clinic

  • consultants can convert advice and guidance requests (if authorised) into referrals, saving time by not having to return the referral to the GP to do this
  • consultants have the opportunity to provide clinic specific details to referrers (in the Directory of Service) before referral, enabling improved quality referral information
  • consultants are able to access the referral information through e-RS and action it accordingly
  • consultants will see a reduction in the number of patient Did Not Attends (DNAs) who don't turn up for appointments because patients have chosen the place, date and time of their appointment
  • consultants receive fewer inappropriate referrals because clinics are carefully defined, and referrers can seek advice prior to referral if there is any doubt about which clinic to refer to
  • consultants have a secure audit trail
  • consultants and booking staff will see a reduction in the administrative burden of chasing hospital appointments on behalf of patients
  • consultants can review and process referrals securely online, removing the need for paper referrals and their inherent risks

Benefits relating to clinical governance and patient experience

Last edited: 30 May 2023 3:47 pm