The Health and Social Care Information Centre has said that it will begin “extended testing” of the NHS e-Referral service, a digital appointment management system, to replace the current ‘Choose and Book’ referral service.
The testing announcement follows a delay to the live launch of the service in October 2014 as it was rolled back to spring 2015 to allow time for “significant test, assurance and defect resolution activity”.
The HSCIC announced that users of the service who are already engaged in testing will be extended into late January in order to include a wider representation from both patients and professional users.
It has been described as “the final phase” of testing to ensure that the system is ready for its now planned 2015 rollout.
The HSCIC said that “this testing is essential to ensure that the new system is fully fit for purpose and working well for the estimated 40,000 patients who book appointments in this way, every working day.”
The project is being designed with similar aesthetics and functionality of the current Choose and Book system in an effort to improve the transition phase from one system to another and reduce the necessity for staff retraining.
The HSCIC added that “early in 2015 the NHS e-Referral Service will be tested alongside the new NHS Care Identity Service to ensure integration with the controls that allow authorised staff to refer patients, book appointments, upload and review clinical information”.
Speaking in May 2014, Beverley Bryant, NHS England’s director of strategic systems and technology said of the plan to develop the new system: “with the NHS e-Referrals Service, we want to build on the successes of Choose and Book and use the lessons learnt.
“This isn’t about re-inventing the wheel, it is about taking the next step.
“We want a system that is quick, easy and beneficial for healthcare professionals to use and ultimately improves patient experience by providing flexibility and choice around the services we offer wherever the patient is”.