New standards for sharing clinical referral information have been published by the Professional Records Standards Body (PRSB) with the aim of speeding up treatment times.

The new published standard for the digital sharing of referral letters has been developed with clinicians and patients, along with implementation guidance for digital referrals sent from GPs to hospitals.

It is hoped that once the new standards are implemented, the exchange of referral information from GPs to hospital consultants and other professionals providing outpatient services will be improved.

Currently, there are differences between GP systems and GP practices in the clinical content of referrals, due to the multiple templates in use.

Gareth Thomas, the PRSB’s clinical advisor to the programme and group CCIO at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, said: “From my experience as a clinician, getting timely, accurate information is essential so that patients can get rapid access to the right services.

“A standardised referral process means they can then be triaged appropriately on to the best pathway of care and will speed up referrals to specialist services.”

The publication of the new referral standards line up with NHS Digital’s October 1 deadline, by which time trusts are to only accept e-referrals from GPs.

The standards were developed in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians health informatics unit, with input from the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The communications that clinicians in different areas of the NHS send to each other are critical as they contain the relevant information necessary to ensure our patients receive the best possible, safe, seamless care.

“We welcome this new standard from the PRSB that should simplify the process for sending e-referrals and ensure the communications sent are standardised, which is in everyone’s best interests.”

In August, Digital Health News reported on the publication of PRSB’s revised digital health and care records sharing standards, which support communications between different IT systems.