Primary Care News, Secondary Care

County Durham and Darlington NHS FT referrals go electronic

County Durham and Darlington NHS FT has eliminated paper hospital referrals from GPs and gone 100% electronic– thanks to a joint initiative with NHS Digital.

The news comes as NHS England announces that from October 1 this year, trusts will only be paid for outpatient appointments that are booked electronically.

Instead of waiting up to a month to get a letter with an outpatient appointment, all patients in County Durham can now go online and book an appointment, with instant confirmation of their slot. GPs are also able to access advice and guidance on treatment from consultants. It’s the result of a three-month campaign by NHS Digital and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to make paper referrals a thing of the past.

The e-referrals system means patients can choose to attend the nearest suitable hospital to work or home for their appointment. County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust manages eight local hospitals covering a population of 650,000. It receives 8,000 GP referrals a month.

GPs send e-referrals via the NHS’s electronic referrals service (e-RS) to the hospital’s patient administration system, CaMIS from EMIS Health. As well as processing outpatient appointments electronically, they can also ask consultants for advice and guidance on treatment before making a referral, to cut hospital appointments to a minimum.

Dr Nicola Murray from the local Clinical Commissioning Group said: “e-RS should be standard throughout the NHS. It is quicker, cheaper and safer than paper referrals, as it provides an audit trail and unique UBRN number in our worklists so that we can track patients. It means we do not have to spend time on the phone chasing referrals and advice. “

Ian Taylor, Chief Operating Officer at EMIS Health said: “EMIS Health was founded on the principle of working in partnership with clinicians to develop and improve our clinical systems. We were delighted to work with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to help further improve their already efficient e-RS and make life easier for clinicians and patients, as well as helping the trust to maximise its income from referrals.”