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NHS e-Referral launch suffers delays

The original planned “go live” date of the new NHS e-Referral system, which is predicted to save NHS England around 20 per cent in costs, has been delayed until spring 2015.

The system replaces the Choose and Book service, a programme designed to allow patients to select a hospital appointment of their choice online, which was not renewed after the contract ended.

E-Referrals is meant to be the “next step” rather than an entirely new service, building upon the successes and lessons learnt from the previous system.

Although NHS England has claimed “excellent progress” has been made on the project so far, it has chosen to delay the system’s arrival to prevent disruption to patient care.

According to the organisation, 40,000 patients use the service every day and it wishes to ensure over 60 million referrals safely and securely transferred into the e-Referrals system.

Progress that has been made so far includes a transition to a replace supplier for the telephone appointment line, building the infrastructure that will host the service and the use of open-source based software.

Further reassurance needed before launch

“There remains however, a significant test, assurance and defect resolution activity to complete for us to be able to sign-off the system as ready,” claims a statement from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

“This includes testing how the service functions, how quickly it performs and how it operates with GP and hospital systems, as well as the NHS Spine.

“Users and suppliers are actively involved in this testing,” it adds.

This is not the first time has significantly delayed a project launch this year – in February, the controversial scheme was pushed back by six months.