e-Referrals is the replacements system for the troubled Choose and Book programme and will act as a means of booking hospital referral appointments online.
It comes as part of the NHS paperless drive and it is hoped the new service will dramatically reduce the number of paper-based referrals.
The e-Referral service was originally meant to go live in November last year, but HSCIC claimed it was forced to delay the project until spring 2015 in order carry out the necessary testing to ensure the system is fit for purpose.
“The new electronic referral service will improve the quality of the referral experience for patients and better support current and future business processes for clinicians and administrative staff,” claims the HSCIC website.
“In so doing, it will help create a more patient-centred, people-powered service, making the NHS much easier to do business with and supporting the drive towards paperless referrals and a paperless NHS by 2018,” it adds.
From 2004, over 40 million referrals from GP to first outpatient appointments were made via the now-retired Choose and Book.
The service was used to refer around 40,000 patients every day.
According to HSCIC, the e-Referral Service will build upon the benefits and successes of the Choose and Book system, but also acknowledge its real and perceived failures and lessons learned.
It says patients and professionals will be at the heart of developing the new programme which will include support for enhanced functionality and usability.
“We have talked to a range of stakeholders, including Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), referrers (GPs), service provider organisations and, of course, patients,” claims HSCIC.
“So far we have spoken to more than 2500 stakeholders and they have told us about some of the functionality they would like to see from a future NHS e-Referral Service,” it adds.