Nearly 70 % of general practitioner (GP) practices across Wales can send hospital referrals electronically via the Welsh Clinical Communications Gateway (WCCG), a national system for the electronic exchange of clinical information that integrates primary and secondary care systems.
The first successful pilots of the eReferral system began in February 2008. All Welsh health boards are now using the gateway, with 300 GP practices connected to the system. Plans are in place for the remaining practices to go live by March 2012.
The system is based on the Scottish Care Information (SCI) Gateway, which is used by 95 % of GPs in Scotland. The NHS Wales Informatics Service (NHSWIS) reports it has worked with the SCI team, local GPs and other organisations to tailor the Scottish system to meet the needs of NHS Wales.
NHSWIS outlines the expected benefits of eReferrals. Use of the gateway means referrals will be handled more easily and efficiently and not be lost in the post. The system uses a set of templates for referrals which automatically populate sections of the form with data extracted from the GP's local system. This means hospitals receive a standard set of information about each patient that is more legible and complete. Discharge information can also be sent to the GP, including essential clinical information held on other care systems, for integration with the patient record.
According to NHSWIS, potential future benefits include the integration of the gateway with hospital patient administration systems to allow electronic workflow to the consultant and the prioritisation of referral letters.
Welsh GPs refer around 650 000 patients a year.