Hospitals and GPs across England are resorting to fax machines in order to refer patients this morning thanks to IT problems resulting in the new e-Referrals system being pulled offline.
The system is critical for GPs referring patients to hospitals and was supposed to replace the previous Choose and Book system.
The new e-Referrals system was intended to go live on Monday. However, almost as soon as it went live the system hit a number of performance issues.
It was developed by the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), the newly created body formed from the former National Programme for IT.
"Clinicians have been experiencing difficulty getting online with it from the beginning," said one NHS IT manager, who asked not to be named.
"They have been unable to view ‘worklists’, to see which patients have been referred and many parties, GPs and hospitals have reported significant performance issues."
He added: "Emails from HSCIC have suggested the system cannot cope with the demand it is seeing – although it’s a bit of a laughable excuse because no significant new demand would have been introduced since Friday. The demand on the old [Choose and Book system] is likely to have been very predictable, or at least known."
Providers have been advised the system has been take offline "until further notice" and should seek alternative methods for referral, such as faxing.
A spokeswoman from the Health and Social Care Information Centre said: "We are experiencing some technical difficulties. We are working hard to resolve these issues as quickly as possible and to keep disruption to a minimum. We will continue to update users regularly, and are sorry for the inconvenience this has caused." ®