I want to talk to you all about the significant milestone we achieved this week, in our adoption of the national Electronic Referral System (e-RS).
From Monday (9th April), in addition to all routine referrals being processed through e-RS, suspected cancer referrals are being booked to us through this system too. This week also marked the start of North West Surrey’s switch off of paper referrals to us, known nationally as ‘Paper Switch Off’.
e-RS is a national programme of work being carried out across the NHS to ensure all referrals from GPs to consultant led services are only sent electronically and traditional paper referral via letter are no longer used. e-RS is single system meaning GPs, patients, our consultants and anyone else involved in the referral or booking process all use the same system.
As we progress with our use of e-RS, GPs will be able to book appointments directly whilst the patient is with them in the surgery, with the aim to eventually enable patients to go online and book and change their appointments themselves. For now GPs will forward their referral to the Referral Support Service (RSS) based at North West Surrey CCG, who will then contact patients and offer them a date for their outpatient appointment.
The system will be beneficial on a number of levels for staff, partners and patients. Immediate benefits include:
- As referrals are electronic the risk of losing the referral is minimized, both in the post or once it has arrived with us.
- The patient’s journey can be monitored within the system from referral to first outpatient attendance with a full audit trail.
- Removes avoidable manual processes in patient pathways and makes process much quicker.
- Allows for two way communication between GPs and Trust clinicians via the Advice and Guidance service within e-RS.
There are a number of changes to the way many staff here in the Trust need to work as a result of this new system, not least the appointment centre staff. For our clinical staff it does mean keeping your local Directory of Service (DoS) up-to-date, as this informs referrers of which clinics and slots to book into for every condition we treat. Similarly all medical staff have had to undergo training to read and triage referrals in the new system.
This is another huge step towards delivering our digital strategy and becoming a paperless Trust. So far we have had a positive start with a number of TWR referrals via e-RS across a variety of specialities. We are now a year into our adoption of e-RS and already receive just over 5,000 referrals a month through this system. We have had a great degree of success with our transition to this new system so far, as a result our team have featured on a Webinar by NHS-Digital and are the focus of a case study to share our experiences nationally.
As part of the project the team created a video which is a very helpful resource and I recommend watching it here.
Key dates going forward:
- Hard switch off - 1 July 2018. From this point any referral we receive that is not via the e-RS system will be returned to the referrer.
- National Paper Switch off – 01 Oct 2018. From this point no Hospital in the NHS will be able to receive paper referrals from GPs and will not be reimbursed for any appointment undertaken that is not through this system.
A huge amount of work has been happening behind the scenes to make this possible and I am really proud of the team, in particular I would like to thank James Thomas, Andrea Lewis, Julie Morland, Debbie Beesley, Dakshini Jeyaratnam, Laura Ellis-Philip and Julian Ruse.
In the meantime have a great weekend.
With best wishes,
Deputy Chief Executive