NHS Digital has confirmed all acute trusts across the north of England have switched to the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS).

The organisation said a total of 47 hospitals and 2,479 GP practices have now switched, almost five weeks ahead of the October deadline for trusts to fully move to e-RS.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust was the first in the region to go fully paper-free for first outpatient appointment referrals last July, while Aintree University Hospital NHS Trust became the final one in the north to meet the same target in August.

Martin Spotsworth, NHS Digital implementation and business change regional head for the north, said: “This is a fantastic achievement by all the hospitals in the region and an excellent boost for patients across the north who will now be able to manage their appointments to suit their needs.”

It is hoped the implementation of e-RS will reduce the amount of paper being used during the referral process, while also giving patients faster access and greater choice of when and where their appointment takes place.

e-RS gives patients access to the Manage your Referral website to book, change and cancel their own appointments.

Janet King, regional lead for information and technology, NHS England, said: “This is great news for the north region. It’s an excellent example of how health and IT professionals are working together to make real benefits for the people living in the north region.

“The removal of paper referrals speeds up the booking process, removes the risk of missing letters and enables both the patient and clinician to track the referral.”

In March 2018, Digital Health News reported that the 2018/19 GP contract had ensured an extra £10 million would be spent on implementing e-RS.