Diversion of referrals

The Elective Care Transformation Programme is supporting the national roll-out of capacity alerts to help patients get the right treatment faster.

This is a simple system to help patients choose where they go for surgery or other planned treatment, based on waiting times for the specialty or sub-specialty they need.

With agreement from commissioners and providers, capacity alerts are set within the NHS e-Referrals Service (e-RS) which is used to make referrals to elective, specialist and secondary care.

These highlight services with limited capacity as ‘red’ and alternative services with good capacity as ‘green’ on the screens that GPs and patients see in the referral process.

They can be seen both on the GP system and on the online and app-based e-RS services that patients use to book appointments themselves.

Two early adopter sites demonstrated the effectiveness of capacity alerts:

  • referrals to red-flagged service providers reduced by up to 38 per cent
  • referrals to green-flagged services increased by up to 14 per cent.

The Elective Care Transformation Programme is supporting the roll-out of the capacity alert system across the NHS in England as an evidence-based demand management tool, as set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

Patients make their choice at the point of referral. As an additional safeguard, the Long Term Plan pledges that anyone who has been waiting for six months will be reviewed and given the option of faster treatment at an alternative provider, with money following the patient to fund their care.

The Elective Care Community of Practice is for everyone working to transform elective care. Find out more.