NHS admits 33 ‘known issues’ with e-Referral service launched today

The NHS e-Referral service has launched with 33 'known issues' today despite being delayed by seven months to give the team time to fix problems.


The NHS has warned there are 33 ‘known issues’ with the new BJSS developed e-Referral service launched today.

Its predecessor service, Choose and Book, is used by 40,000 patients every day. The new version is supposed to enable higher use rates in future and help to cut NHS waiting times, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

However there are currently long delays when loading parts of the service or retrieving patient details, issues with search functionality, problems displaying parts of forms, the HSCIC admitted in an email to users.

The section which allows staff to extract data and produce reports is currently missing and will not be available until August, the centre said. Five of the 33 identified issues did not have any workaround, however the centre suggested temporary fixes for the remaining issues where possible.  

Choose and Book, which e-Referrals replaced, is a 10-year old NHS booking system built by Atos and Cerner which allows patients to book hospital appointments online. All past and current referrals on Choose and Book have been “safely and securely migrated”, HSCIC promised.

The launch of the e-Referral service is intended as a critical step towards achieving paperless referrals and thus a vital part of plans to achieve a paperless health service, the centre has said previously.  

The NHS awarded IT consultancy BJSS a contract to help develop e-Referrals in February 2012 and has used the suppliers' services extensively throughout the process.

The new service was originally supposed to launch in November 2014 but it was delayed after it failed on 11 out of 26 criteria during an assessment by the Government Digital Service (GDS) four months earlier.

The seven-month delay was intended to give the e-Referrals team time to “carry out significant additional work to demonstrate compliance with the required standards”.

The GDS concluded the user interface was not simple or intuitive enough, the team had not done enough user research and had inadequate benchmarking of key metrics like completion rates, take-up and costs.

“There are still a number of known issues, which are currently being resolved,” HSCIC said in a post on its website.

“Even though we have done a huge amount of testing, it is impossible to test every possible key stroke and action, and new issues may well surface now the system is in use,” it added.

The centre said it did not expect any of the issues will put patients at risk or prevent users from carrying out “essential tasks”.