You are here > GPs > NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS)

NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS)

What is the NHS e-Referral Service?

The NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS) combines electronic booking with a choice of place for first hospital or clinic appointments. Patients can choose their initial hospital or clinic appointment and book it in the GP surgery at the point of referral or later at home on the phone or online.

Choosing your hospital

Most patients have the right to choose which hospital provider they are referred to by their GP. This legal right, which was introduced in April 2009, lets patients choose from any hospital provider in England offering a suitable treatment that meets NHS standards and costs.

Patients can choose which hospital they are seen in accordance with what matters to them most, whether it is location, waiting times, reputation, clinical performance, visiting policies, parking facilities or other patients' comments.

A choice of hospital is available for most patients and in most circumstances. Exceptions include emergency and urgent services, cancer, maternity and mental health services. If the patient needs to be seen urgently by a specialist (for example, if they have severe chest pain), the GP will send them where they will be seen most quickly.

What does the NHS e-Referral Service mean for the patient?

As well as giving patients a choice of hospital for their appointment, e-Referrals will also give the ability to:

  • plan and manage appointments around any existing appointments, if patients are currently undergoing treatment

  • fit treatment in with other commitments, at home and at work

  • choose appointments that fit with the patient's schedule, and

  • check the status of referrals and change or cancel of appointments easily over the phone or on the internet.


How does the NHS e-Referral Service work?

When a patient and GP agree the need for an appointment with a specialist, Choose and Book shows the patient's GP which hospitals or clinics are available for treatment. The GP than discusses the clinically appropriate options that are available for treating the medical condition.

If the patient knows where and when they would like to be seen, a booking can be made before leaving the practice. The patient will be given confirmation of the place, date and time of their appointment. 

Can patients book all appointments through Choose and Book?

In mid Essex, when a patient and GP agree the need for an appointment with a specialist, the GP will send the patient to the Central Referral Service (CRS).*  The CRS will review the referral and contact the patient with details of which hospitals or clinics are available for treatment and how to book their appointment. 

The patient will be sent confirmation of the place, date and time of their appointment. 

Any follow up appointments are arranged by the hospital themselves.

The benefits of the NHS e-Referral Service for Referrers

Benefits for referrers include:

  • a safe, secure and reliable system supporting patients in their choice decisions, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

  • an easy and reliable way of identifying appropriate services

  • helping to optimise the clinical appropriateness of referrals

  • the concept of "book now, refer later" which allows the referrer to fully involve the patient in the decision making process during the consultation, and

  • more efficient referral processes, such as reduced time spent chasing written referrals if implemented correctly.


* www.midessexccg.nhs.uk/livewell/central-referral-service (this opens in a new browser window)