Primary care staff can now turn an advice conversation with secondary care colleagues directly into a referral following an update to the NHS e-Referral service, NHS Digital has said.
It comes after feedback from GPs and consultants already using the service.
NHS Digital said the update will speed up the process and ensure ‘patients see the right clinician at the right time’.
Consultants and other clinicians will only be able to convert the advice conversation into a referral with the agreement of the referrer, where both agree it is in the patient’s best interests, NHS Digital added.
The update was installed at the end of January and more changes are due to be added towards the end of March.
The March update will see the advice function integrated into provider systems to avoid clinicians having to switch between multiple systems to ask advice from each other.
Conversations between clinicians will also be embedded into a patient’s record, NHS Digital said.
Martin O’Keeffe, senior clinical lead from NHS Digital, said: ‘By making it easier for primary and secondary care clinicians to talk to each other, we know that GPs can get the advice they need at their fingertips while hospital consultants can have greater confidence that a referral is appropriate before a patient is referred to them.
He added: ‘This will make the whole process smoother and simpler for everyone involved and ultimately will improve patient care.’