Wales begin pilots of e-referrals

  • 14 January 2008

Informing Healthcare, the Welsh NHS IT agency, is to start piloting electronic referrals system in three GP practices in Cardiff and Vale next month, following a successful test transmission using dummy data.

The practices will take part in a ‘proof-of-concept’ trial that will replace hand-delivered patient referral letters with an electronic referral.

Scotland’s SCI, the central electronic referrals systems developed for use within NHS Scotland, is the system to be used.

The trial follows a test run on 18 December 2007, where an electronic referral using dummy patient information was sent from the Ravenscourt Surgery GP practice to the Cardiff and Vale Referral Management Centre, where it was received, viewed and forwarded to the University Hospital of Wales (UHW).

The referral was received by UHW and the delivery was then electronically confirmed to the GP practice. The test was conducted with real users, and the same hardware and communications links that will be used during the proof-of-concept trial. The transmission of the referral between sites took on average less than 10 seconds.

Informing Healthcare says the test run was achieved within the timeframe set and, importantly, it paves the way for the next stage of the project: the sending of ‘live’ patient information.

Over the last few months a significant amount of collaborative work has been done to adapt GP systems for compliance and to engage with and train GP practice staff to prepare them for the trial. The three GP practices will stop using hand delivered patient referral letters and will instead use the SCI Gateway system to deliver secure electronic messages instantly to UHW.

A further eight practices will join the trial in the spring prior to roll-out across the Cardiff and Vale health community, which will allow full evaluation of the service before it is made available across the whole of Wales.

A national reference group is now being established to ensure the project meets the needs of clinicians and patients.

Informing Healthcare says electronic referrals will bring benefits including referrals being handled more easily and efficiently, secure communication of clinical data, no referral letters lost in the post and the use of templates to ensure hospitals receive a standard set of information about each patient.

Future anticipated benefits include the ability to update patient records immediately with information from hospital discharge letters, the system could integrate with hospital patient administration systems to allow electronic workflow to the consultant and the prioritisation of referral letters and discharge information could be sent to the GP, including essential clinical information held on secondary care systems.


Informing Healthcare 



Joe Fernandez


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