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Patients, GPs and the NHS benefit from new electronic referrals in East Lancashire

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Patients in East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen will benefit from a more streamlined referral process for their first consultant outpatient appointment after local GPs and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) moved to 100 per cent electronic referrals for consultant led services.

The NHS e-Referral Service gives patients the chance to choose an appointment at a time and date that suits them. Doctors and patients can see in advance what services are available and how quickly the patient can be seen.

Patients can now book or change their appointment online at www.nhs.uk/referrals using their mobile phone or tablet which will save the GP practice time and reduce the NHS’s administration costs.

There will be a small number of patients who are not able to access this technology, as they do not have access to the internet. These patients are encouraged to talk to the staff at their GP surgery, who will be happy to guide them and book clinic appointments on their behalf.

Dr Richard Robinson, Chair at NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We’re delighted to report that the introduction of the NHS e-Referral Service for East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen has been an unqualified success.

“There has been a fantastic response by GPs using the E-Referral System which cuts down on their paperwork and reduces the number of patients who go back to them to find out what is happening with their hospital appointment. The system also allows doctors to more easily track their patients’ referrals.”

As part of the National initiative for the NHS to become more digitally driven, GP’s were required to send referrals for consultant led service in NHS Trusts in England electronically from the 1 October 2018.

However, this target was delivered earlier in this area and up to 6,000 electronic referrals per month have been sent to East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust since the 1 August, rather than by other, more traditional methods; for example letter, fax or email.

The NHS e-Referral Service 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, book it in the GP surgery at the point of referral, or later at home on the phone or online.

Prior to August this year, GP referrals were made by paper which took longer, was less secure and cost the NHS and GPs thousands of pounds each month in administration, stationery and postal charges.

John Bannister, Director of Operations for ELHT, said: “The NHS e-Referral Service really is a good news story and it is encouraging that we have all local GP practices confidently using the e-Referral system.

“Here in East Lancashire, the move provides a range of benefits including greater choice of appointment date and time for patients. And we estimate there will also be a reduction in missed appointments which will reduce waiting times.

“Crucial to delivering the e-Referral Service ahead of time has been the excellent working relationship between East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group and technical specialists from NHS Digital.”

It is estimated that the NHS e-Referral Service will save up to £50 million across the whole NHS.