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Wales leads the way with electronic dental referrals

Wales is now the first country in the UK to introduce electronic dental referrals across all dental specialities. The new Dental Referral Management System will allow general dental practitioners (GDPs) to refer patients to primary or secondary care for specialist care and further treatment electronically. The web based system is provided by FDS Consultants in partnership with NHS Wales Informatics Service. It replaces traditional paper referrals, minimising the risk of missing information or letters and tackling delays in patients’ treatment.

The system initially went live in Swansea Bay and Hywel Dda Health Boards earlier this year followed by full national rollout by the end of May.

There has been a very high take up with 98.6% of dentists already having used the system. They are reporting that it is easy to use, works well and makes life easier for them, their patients and hospital consultants. Even though it is early days more than 20,000 referrals have gone through the system already.

‘The new system is a much needed step forward to provide an efficient,  trackable referral pathway for patients to the full range of specialist services…and we look forward to working with NWIS & FDS, as well as the local health boards to ensure that it becomes the best system it can be.’ - Jonathan Carter, Chairman, Local Dental Committee.

All specialities across primary and secondary care are covered, including:

•          Orthodontists

•          Oral Surgery

•          Oral Maxillofacial Surgery

•          Oral Medicine

•          Restorative Dentistry

•          Community Dental Services (Paediatrics and Special Care)

•          Urgent suspected cancers

Referrals can be triaged within the system which ensures the quality of the information sent to specialists is correct and patients receive the right care in the right place. For the first time, patients are able to track their referrals online by entering a unique reference number on the website keeping them informed and involved in their care.

GDPs are also able to attach high quality radiographs to referrals, which can be accessed by specialists, meaning patients don’t have to experience repeat radiographs. Health boards will make use of the data collected from electronic referrals to plan and redesign services for the future.

The project has been made possible by collaboration between Welsh Government, FDS Consultants, NHS Wales Informatics Service, Public Health Wales and health boards.