NHS explores e-referral system for dentists

Commissioners seek market help in shaping specifications for tool through which dentists could refer patients for further care

NHS dentists across the south of England may soon benefit from an electronic system for referring patients for further care.

The NHS South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit has issued a notice outlining its intent to conduct market-engagement exercises to inform the procurement or construction of “a dental electronic referral system”. Such a platform would be used to manage the referral and ongoing care of patients that need “level 2 and 3 dental services” – that are not typically offered by dentists. 

The engagement notice added: “The system requirement is expected to include the ability to transfer patient data and clinical imaging securely, ability to accept referrals and the ability to send/receive secure messages between the referee and the service provider.”

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The system will initially be implemented across Dorset, Hampshire, and the Thames Valley region, but could be extended across south-west England and potentially other parts of the country too, the notice said.

To help shape any possible procurement of development process, NHS commissioners are inviting interested suppliers to attend an event at Basingstoke’s Ark Conference Centre on 11 October. 

“The commissioners wish to engage with system providers to view system demonstrations and gather information regarding the potential system options,” the notice added. “This information will then inform any subsequent service specification.”

At the event, suppliers will be given the chance to demonstrate their technologies. These presentations will be followed with a Q&A session with a panel of commissioners.

Increasing usage of the e-referrals system for GPs has, in recent months, been a key area of focus for NHS Digital – which built and maintains the system. The October 1 deadline by which doctors are expected to make all referrals for secondary-care appointments digitally is just one month away. Utilisation of e-referrals is currently at 75%, according to NHS Digital’s most recent weekly report. 

Sam Trendall

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