The new NHS e-Referral service will ‘operate at about 20 per cent of the Choose and Book operating costs', NHS England has revealed.
The organisation told Computing that while no costing information has been published as a matter of commercial sensitivity, the delivery costs of the NHS e-Referral service will be significantly lower than the £356m Choose and Book system that preceded it.
The Choose and Book system is an online booking service for patients and healthcare professionals that was introduced in 2004. But its use by GPs is "variable" and this has led to annual savings of up to £51m being missed, according to a report on NHS waiting times published by the Public Accounts Committee.
NHS England, which has said that it would "build on the successes and use the lessons learnt" from the dumped £356m Choose and Book system, rather than starting from scratch, explained that testing had been under way for some time now on the new service, and will continue until the services goes live in November 2014.
Testing involves several different procedures: user testing of the service to ensure it functions and is clinically safe; system testing by development partner BJSS; partner testing to ensure that supplier systems that integrate with the e-Referral system perform correctly; and end-user system integration tests carried out by HSCIC, to ensure that national systems such as the Spine service integrates appropriately with the new system.
Computing also asked NHS England which technology companies are involved with the new system. In response, NHS England said that a number of contracts had been let for provision of the NHS e-Referral service (e-RS), including the initial phase development to build NHS e-RS software, which was contracted to BJSS via the government's G-Cloud framework.
In March 2014, cloud-based solutions provider Conduit was contracted for the replacement of Appointment Line, while in the same month, InTechnology was contracted for the NHS e-RS infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) contract, which was procured from the G-Cloud framework.
NHS England said that further tenders for future development and support will be issued in 2014 and beyond.