Congratulations to NHS Digital for winning Campaign of the Month

Friday 18 January 2019

NHS Digital ran the #JusteReferrals campaign, to raise awareness of a national NHS target which required all GP practices and acute hospital trusts to use the NHS e-Referral Service for all consultant-led first outpatient appointments.

NHS e-Referrals


The campaign objectives were focused on promoting the target date for completion, raising awareness of how to access advice and support, share best practice and improve understanding of the benefits of using the NHS e-Referral Service.

The NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS) is a national service that combines electronic booking with a choice of place, date and time for first hospital or clinic appointments. It allows patients or clinicians to book appointments in hospital or other care settings online and has been shown to reduce the number of people who fail to attend their appointment.
It enables patients to choose the time and the place most convenient for them, cuts administration for doctors, reduces the use of paper and saves time and money that can be better used for patient care.

NHS England set a national target that by 1 October 2018, all referrals to consultant-led first outpatient appointments must be made via e-RS, in order to improve patient experience and maximise financial and efficiency benefits. An initiative called the ‘Paper switch off’ programme was established to deliver the changes required in secondary and primary care to ensure that all 150 acute hospital trusts and their health communities met the target. From 1 October 2018, trusts would no longer be paid for activity which resulted from referrals made other than through the NHS e-Referral Service.

NHS Digital worked with NHS England to provide practical advice and support to all hospital trusts through regionally based Implementation and Business Change (IBC) teams. This practical help was supported by a national communication campaign, targeted at acute hospital trusts, primary care and Clinical Commissioning Groups.


The #JusteReferrals campaign objectives were to:

  • increase awareness of the countdown to the national PSO deadline of October 2018;
  • raise awareness of how other trusts have approached and achieved PSO by sharing best practice;
  • raise awareness of how to access advice and support from NHS Digital;
  • raise awareness of the benefits of using e-RS;
  • promote e-RS system improvements and enhancements.

The target audiences were: acute trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Clinical Information Officers (CIOs), GPs and practice staff.

Audience insight was gathered from a baseline survey, existing communication team intelligence and from the IBC team who work directly with the audiences.

An integrated campaign approach was adopted and a range of communication channels were used to promote the key messages. Communication channels included face to face meetings and briefings, NHS Digital (e-RS and GP bulletins) and NHS England e-bulletins to e-RS and primary care, media and website. A consistent visual style was used across all channels and the campaign included a strong social media element under the name #JusteReferrals.



  • 85 articles in national and local media. 94% positive/neutral sentiment;
  • 659,006 social media impressions. 86.4% positive/neutral sentiment;
  • Twitter content seen a total of 467,590 times. An average of 5,501 per tweet;
  • digital media was viewed over 676,000 times;
  • national engagement and conversation on social media.


  • 91.6% of the target audiences were aware of the national PSO target (22% increase on the baseline position);
  • 78.6% of respondents agree or strongly agree that they now have a better understanding of e-RS benefits than six months ago;
  • 72% of respondents have a better understanding of the new e-RS Advice and Guidance function than six months ago.


  • The national PSO target was met one month early;
  • use of the e-RS Manage Your Referral website overtook use of the Telephone Appointment Line for the first time in September 2018′
  • use of the newly improved e-RS Advice and Guidance function began to rise as messages about it were included in the campaign.

The team:

The winning team were based in NHS Digital, Leeds. They are:

  • Caroline Woodhouse – Communications Manager (lead)
  • Tom Donnelly – Senior Press Officer
  • Chad Welch – External Communications Officer (Digital)
  • Chris Dayman – Multimedia Producer

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