NHS England set to reward digital referrals

nhs, paperless
"We must also provide an effective patient experience that ensures patients feel reassured at a time when they are most vulnerable.”

NHS England have released millions to make sure patient referrals go completely digital by 2018

(London, UK) NHS England has set aside £55 million to reward GPs and hospitals making referrals completely digital by 2018 within two years, which will end the practice of referring patients to hospital by second class post.

Currently, around 50% of patients are referred for hospital appointments electronically.  It is hoped this will increase rapidly to 60% by September 2016, 80% by 2017 and 100% by 2018.

NHS England and NHS Improvement also plan to consult on a proposal that by 2018 NHS commissioners and providers will no longer be paid for referrals made by paper.

Beverley Bryant, Director of Digital Technology, says: “For a long time our first class healthcare system has been let down by outmoded systems, where patients are referred to hospital by second class post.  We have a duty of care that extends beyond providing effective treatments.  We must also provide an effective patient experience that ensures patients feel reassured at a time when they are most vulnerable.”

Actions announced today include encouraging clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to support GPs and hospitals to adopt the practice of electronic referrals, NHS England will release up to £55m of funding through the 2016-7 Quality Premium, a scheme designed to reward CCGs for improvements in quality of services.

There will be further payments for hospitals to process electronic referrals next year through a 2017-18 Commissioning for Quality and Innovation which recognises excellence and improvement in providers.

Furthermore, in 2018, NHS England and NHS Improvement will discuss whether the requirement to complete and process referrals electronically becomes a condition of the national tariff meaning that commissioners and providers would no longer be paid for referrals made by paper.

Completing referrals electronically allows GPs to book in patients’ hospital appointments immediately and offer them a choice of date.  Under these plans, patients will leave their GP practice with a scheduled appointment in the diary, ending the need to wait for the post to arrive or chase hospital letters.

The initiative is part of an NHS wide drive to increase efficiency which includes making the best use of technology.