A new agreed GP contract for 2018/19 has ensured an extra £10 million will be spent on the implementation of the NHS electronic referrals service (e-RS) to ensure it is available at every practice by October 2018.
Together with the £10 million investment, the contract agrees to clear joint guidance for e-RS between NHS England, the government and the British Medical Association’s General Practitioners Committee.
The contract also states that local paper switch-off dates will be determined, as well as resources for training.
It reads: “Where there are concerns from local GPs, the e-RS team will meet with them, to understand those concerns and jointly develop and deliver action plans to address any issues.
“In addition, the national e-RS implementation team is working on national products to raise awareness and understanding of e-RS.
“These include guidance which has been co-created with the GPC, as well as videos and training materials, that will outline the different ways practices can implement e-RS including what support can be given by other members of the practice team.”
The ultimate aim is to “have all CCGs and trusts using e-RS for all their practice to first, consultant-led, outpatient appointments from October 2018, and to have switched off paper referrals”.
Another action is a complete roll-out of electronic prescribing, with the contract promising a “fall-back process if the system is not operational”.
Other actions include achieving the 10% minimum of patients registered for online services.
Dr Arvind Madan, NHS England director of primary care, said: “This new contract is positive news for patients and GPs, especially the focus on digital solutions. This will help GPs focus their time and resources on the areas that matter most to their patients.”
It was revealed this month that provider trusts will only receive payment for outpatient appointments for which the referral was made electronically, in a change intended to encourage use of e-RS.