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, together with their clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in establishing local projects to evaluate current e-RS utilisation and put plans in place to achieve exclusive e-RS operation by October 2018.

NHS e-Referral Service: guidance for managing referrals

NHS England has published a guidance document in support of the Paper Switch-Off Programme and to clarify how the provisions within the Service Condition 6.2A are to operate. It is aimed at commissioners (CCGs and NHS England), GP practices, and all providers of acute consultant-led outpatient services which accept referrals from GP practices.

The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) have been developed in response to queries raised about e-RS which relate to the NHS Standard Contract, the NHS England CQUIN for e-RS and the Paper Switch-off Programme. The FAQ section of this website will be updated regularly.

If you require more information about e-RS or the Paper Switch-off Programme please contact england.electronicreferrals@nhs.net.

If you require support or information on e-RS please contact nhs.ers@nhs.net.

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