Doctor computer systemNHS Digital has launched a new online tool, which it hopes will reduce the number of patients referred by GPs to inappropriate services.

The tool improves a GP’s view of information, making it easier for them to view service referral criteria before referring a patient to secondary care. The tool will also reduce administration for staff, as well as lower costs.

The Verification of Referral Criteria was added to the NHS e-Referral Service on January 13, and is just one of a number of key milestones on the development roadmap. 

The roadmap shows the improvements to be delivered between now and October 2018 when providers will no longer be paid for activity that results from referrals made other than through the NHS e-Referral Service. 

It is already bringing benefits to GPs like Lambeth GP Dr Alex Mackay, who said: “It’s quicker to compare referral criteria on one screen. It also makes it less likely that we waste everyone's time by referring inappropriately.”

After a referring clinician has shortlisted appropriate services, but prior to submitting the referral, a pop-up window is now displayed showing each shortlisted service and the following referral criteria:

  • Referrer alert 
  • Exclusions 
  • Conditions treated 
  • Suggested investigations.

Using the information provided, the referrer will be able to:

  • Ensure each service is appropriate for the patient 
  • Remove any inappropriate service(s) without having to return to the previous screen 
  • Proceed with the referral or return to the service selection screen.

The NHS e-Referral Service roadmap has been published on the NHS Digital website.