NHS e-Referral Service reveals roadmap of improvement plans

The NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS) has shared its latest improvements to the system, as well as plans for further enhancements and estimated delivery dates for these.

The service says it is “continually improving to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to use” and has set out its vision as being to “provide NHS and partner organisations with a referral service that empowers patients to obtain the best care – first time, every time.​”

In its future service roadmap, which was published on 17 August 2021, e-RS laid out four priorities, as well as the expected development stages and next steps.

The four improvement areas are as below:

  • To enable e-RS and other systems to ‘talk’ to each other, so that clinicians can spend more time on patient care and less time switching between IT systems – the service’s aim for August/September 2021 was to introduce ‘changes (additional APIs) which will allow providers to manage referrals into Referral Assessment Services (RAS) through their own clinical systems’, which it says it has delivered. The next stage is expected to include the ability to allow referring organisations to ‘use APIs to create and manage advice and guidance in their own systems’.
  • To make use of e-RS easier and faster so clinicians spend less time on administration – after delivering ‘technical changes to’ support improved referral reporting, the next priorities include improvements to advice and guidance reporting, making it easier for providers to see who has responded to an advice request, and helping clinicians plan their time more effectively. Phase 2 of the enhancements, planned for October/November, will focus on referrer screens, improving how worklists are presented, and saving time when managing patients’ referrals. While, improvements to the size and type of files that can be shared through e-RS, the ability for providers to redirect a referral, the enhancement of patient letters and communication, and allowing a referral shortlist of provider choices to contain both bookable and triage (RAS) services, are all planned for further down the line.
  • To make e-RS available to a wider range of users who do not have access to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) – the most recent improvements made in this area were ‘further background technical updates’ that included preparatory work for e-RS being available to new users, while future plans are based around making APIs available to support users who do not have access to the HSCN.
  • Keeping the system up to date and secure to give every user confidence in how their data is being stored and used – the NHS says that a ‘continuous range of technical changes’ that ‘make sure e-RS stays up to date and uses the best possible technology for all its current and future development’ are applied to this area.

Citing user feedback as one of the sources powering the improvement plans, the service is requesting further input and suggestions to help it meet need and provide a better user experience.

Find the full roadmap of planned improvements, and see more of the changes that have been delivered so far, here.

To provide feedback on e-RS, email for a ‘user need request form’.

In related news, in April HTN reported that the system now integrates with the NHS App, and Barts Health highlighted a rise in the use of the e-referral advice and guidance function.