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NHS e-Referral Service: a guide for secondary care doctors

St Marys/Hammersmith Hospitals 21-12-16
Female hospital doctor looking at screen SMH2016

The NHS e-Referral service (e-RS) is a referral management and electronic appointment booking system which allows for the booking and managing of appointments by professionals and patients in England. It is currently used for most referrals by GP practices into consultant-led first outpatient appointments but, until now, its full use was not required by the NHS Standard Contract.

e-RS offers a variety of benefits to patients as well as professionals and the wider NHS, particularly regarding the clarity and security of information. 

Find out more about e-RS

View e-RS guidance for primary care


The process for change

From 1 October 2018, NHS providers and GP practices, via CCGs, should have:

  • Agreed a switch-over date from paper referrals to e-RS
  • Agreed a process for managing the return of referrals to practices, ensuring patient safety
  • Implemented the switch-over and paper referral return process, making any necessary adjustments 

NHS England has published comprehensive guidance for managing referrals.


Read our considerations for doctors in secondary care to take into account when implementing e-RS below.

Download the guidance