The NHS e-referral service will go live in November this year, the Health and Social Care Information Centre has said.

At a recent supplier testing open day, the HSCIC gave a presentation on the service which will replace Choose and Book in order to make sure suppliers are prepared for the launch.

The system is based on open source technology and there will be a large focus on open standards, says the presentation.

“The replacement service has been rewritten and re-developed and should be the same from a functional perspective of Choose and Book compliant systems.”

Choose and Book was developed a decade ago, after the then-Labour government promised to introduce “airline-style booking” to the NHS.

It was intended as one of a number of new, digital services to make the NHS more convenient.

However, its roll-out was significantly delayed, and usage has stalled at around 50% of referrals.

NHS England is considering making the use of the new e-referrals service mandatory and is also looking at introducing an incentive and penalty system to ensure GP practices and hospitals use the service.

Sir David Nicholson, the now former chief executive of NHS England, said earlier this year that the main difference between the old and the new service, which is being developed by BJSS, is that “anyone can refer to anyone.

It will also allow patients to book their own follow up appointments electronically and be given alerts and reminders of when to book. They can also refer themselves into services.

The development of the service has been split into three major releases. The first will develop basic referral functionality; the second will include integration, where the first supplier testing window is scheduled. This will happen between June and July this year.

 The third major release will deliver “the finishing touches” and wil be open for supplier testing in August and September.

“Major release 2 has flexibility to review and assess defects identified during testing to minimise the need for code changes in the end systems,” says the presentation.

“The same level of flexibility will not be available in major release 3, suppliers can’t assume defects will be assessed and accommodated in the NHS e-referral service. Suppliers are therefore requested and it is recommended to participate in both test windows.”

The HSCIC has been running a consultation and several workshops with stakeholders on how they want the new service to look.