NHS e-Referral service will 'build on success' of dumped £356m Choose and Book system

By Sooraj Shah
14 May 2014 View Comments

The NHS's e-Referral service will "build on the successes and use the lessons learnt" from the dumped £356m Choose and Book system, rather than starting from scratch, NHS officials have claimed. 

Earlier this week, a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee revealed that the NHS was to replace the Choose and Book system.

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The committee said that the system was a "missed opportunity to improve patient care and data quality", and its under-use meant that annual savings of up to £51m were being missed.

Beverley Bryant, director of strategic systems and technology for NHS England, said that up to 40,000 patient referrals are made through Choose and Book every day, and that over 40 million bookings have been made through the system to date.

However, she acknowledged that the system has worked for some GPs and not for others, and that a combination of electronic and paper referrals are still being used in some areas.

"Managing a mixed economy of paper and electronic referrals is onerous for hospitals," Bryant admitted.

"With the new NHS e-Referrals Service we want to build on the successes of Choose and Book and use the lessons learnt. This isn't about reinventing the wheel; it is about taking the next step."

The decision to use a new system is part of NHS England's commitment to make all referrals electronic by 2018, Bryant said.

She suggested that open and agile technologies would be used in the new system, referring to the Choose and Book system being designed at a time when such technologies were not yet available.

A key objective for the new system will be to increase functionality and choice, and make the booking experience more user friendly.

The Public Accounts Committee had asked NHS England how it was going to ensure that the e-Referrals service does not suffer the same problems as Choose and Book.

In response, the NHS claimed it was running trials with GPs with a view to making use of the system mandatory, and looking at options for incentives or penalties to encourage uptake.

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