NHS e-Referral Service

The spread of technology across all areas of life means patients increasingly expect to be able to interact with healthcare through digital channels, providing them with more choice and control over their care, and greater access to NHS services. In England, the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS) is a national digital platform used to refer patients from primary care into elective care services.

e-RS allows patients to choose their first outpatient hospital or clinic appointment and book it in the GP surgery, online or on the phone. For the past few years the use of e-RS between primary and secondary care in England has maintained a steady position at approximately 50% of such referrals.

From 1 October 2018, Service Condition 6.2A of the NHS Standard Contract sets out that all NHS providers will need to use e-RS as the only method of making and receiving referrals from GPs to consultant-led first outpatient appointments. Accepting referrals not made using e-RS could result in commissioners withholding payment for this activity.

NHS England, in partnership with NHS Digital and NHS Improvement, initiated a national Paper Switch-off Programme towards the end of 2016 to provide individual, project-based support to NHS providers to prepare them for the new service condition. The programme aims to support trusts in establishing local projects to evaluate current e-RS utilisation and put plans in place to achieve exclusive e-RS operation.

NHS e-Referral guidance

NHS e-Referral Service: guidance for managing referrals is aimed at commissioners, GP practices, and all providers of acute consultant-led outpatient services which accept referrals from GP practices.

A set of frequently asked questions are provided here:

These sets of FAQs will be updated as the programme continues.

NHS e-Referral Service: guidance on payment authentication is aimed at commissioners and all providers of acute consultant-led outpatient services which accept referrals from GP practices.

If you require support or information about the e-RS service or programme please contact enquiries.ers@nhs.net.

If you have any questions relating to the NHS Standard Contract please contact nhscb.contractshelp@nhs.net.