• £55m set aside to promote electronic referrals in the NHS

NHS England has set aside £55 million to incentivise GPs and hospitals to help increase the uptake of electronic referrals to 100% by 2018.

Currently, around half of patients are referred for hospital appointments electronically through the new NHS e-Referral Service. NHS England wants this to increase to 60% by September, then 80% by 2017 and 100% by 2018.

The £55 million will be released through a scheme called the 2016-2017 Quality Premium. This is designed to reward clinical commissioning groups for improvements in quality of services. The money can be used to help GPs and hospitals further adopt electronic referrals.

Director of digital technology, Beverley Bryant, said: “For a long time, our first class healthcare system has been let down by outmoded systems, where patients are referred to hospital by second class post. We have a duty of care that extends beyond providing effective treatments. We must also provide an effective patient experience that ensures patients feel reassured at a time when they are most vulnerable.”

The new e-Referral Service was developed in-house by the Health and Social Care Information Centre working alongside BJSS. It went live in June 2015, replacing the older Choose and Book service.

The National Audit Office has conducted research which suggests that the NHS could save £51 million a year if every referral was made online.