Rates of ‘did not attend’ have been reduced by half for patients who book GP appointments and referrals through the NHS App.

In October 2020, NHS Digital integrated the e-Referral Service into the NHS App to give patients more control over their appointments and save GPs time.

GPs can email appointment booking details for the NHS e-Referral Service directly with patients with an NHS Login. Patients are then able to securely access the NHS Manage Your Referral website directly from the app.

Research has shown that when patients book their own appointments, the ‘did not attend’ rate can reduce by up to half, according to NHS Digital.

Martin O’Keeffe, senior clinical lead at NHS Digital, said: “We’ve put the power back into patients’ hands, giving them another digital route to book and manage their own hospital appointments.

“The NHS App will provide an easy, quick and secure way to do this on the move, meaning many patients won’t have to wait for their referral details in the post before they book their first appointment.”

The NHS App has more than two million users with about 40% of e-Referral appointments currently booked by practice staff.

O’Keeffe said this was a “powerful push” for primary care services to introduce their patients to the benefits of the NHS App.

“This will make the whole process smoother and simpler for everyone involved and ultimately will improve patient care,” he added.

“This is part of a series of improvements that are being made to the NHS e-Referral service designed to help clinicians and patients.”

NHS Digital recently made improvements to the e-Referral Service following consultation with stakeholders and users. Provider clinicians can now turn an advice conversation directly into a referral, making it easier and quicker for busy clinicians to use the service.

Further changes implemented in March allowed the advice and guidance function to be integrated into provider systems so that conversations can be directly embedded into the patient’s medical record and clinicians do not have to switch between systems to seek advice from each other.

The e-Referral Service was launched in 2005 and hit 100 million bookings in December 2018.