Primary Care News

Barts Health reports rise in e-referral advice and guidance function

Barts Health NHS Trust has reported a rise in the number of GPs using the advice and guidance (A&G) service, through the NHS e-Referral Service.
The service, which supports clinicians to seek advice from each other, has grown to 2,300 requests in one month – an increase of almost 200% from February 2020.According to Barts, the number of requests for A&G has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping GPs to manage conditions in the community and, in turn, reducing hospital appointments and the risk of redirected referrals.

The trust noted that 91% of requests are now responded to within five days, up from 83% in 2020.

The service is being used to seek another clinician or specialist for their advice on a treatment plan and the ongoing management of a patient, or asking for clarification regarding a patient’s test results. Other use cases include seeking advice on the appropriateness of a referral for a patient, whether to refer, or what the most appropriate alternative care pathway might be and identifying the most clinically appropriate service to refer a patient into.

Functionality now includes the ability to attach documents to the advice request, which may include diagnostic results, scanned images or previous correspondence related to the patient.

Dr Neil Ashman, the chair of Barts Health’s outpatient transformation board, commented: “There are many benefits to using A&G: it gives GPs and patients access to advice from hospital specialists; it improves the appropriateness of referrals helping to avoid unnecessary appointments and, crucially, it gets patients access to the information and support they need more quickly.

“We’re proud of the strides we have made to our A&G services and we look forward to working with our partners to further develop this to the benefit of patients in north east London.”

Last month, NHS Digital announced improvements to the e-Referral Service, including updates to the advice function. These include the integration of advice and guidance functions into provider systems – enabling conversations to be embedded into patient records.