The NHS e-referral service will go live in November this year, the UK Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC ) has said.

The service is based on open source technology and will replace the current Choose and Book system, which was developed a decade ago after the then-Labour government promised to introduce "airline-style booking" to the NHS.

NHS England is considering making the use of the new e-referrals service mandatory and is also looking at introducing an incentive and penalty system to ensure GP practices and hospitals use the service, reports E-Health Insider.

It will also allow patients to book their own follow up appointments electronically and be given alerts and reminders of when to book. They can also refer themselves into services.

The development of the service has been split into three major releases. The first will develop basic referral functionality; the second will include integration, where the first supplier testing window is scheduled. This will happen between June and July this year.

The third major release will deliver "the finishing touches" and will be open for supplier testing in August and September.
The HSCIC has been running a consultation and several workshops with stakeholders on how they want the new service to look.