MARS is the South Lakeland Multi Agency Referral System. The system has been developed by the Gateway collaborative to support the ambition of better joined-up working in a safe and reliable way.

Many organisations provide specialist or very specific services, and they will have a unique data set they will wish to record specific to their service. MARS does not set out to be and cannot be a case or client recording system for every organisation. What MARS does provide is a safe, easy-to-access and simple-to-use method of making a referral into another registered organisation.

The MARS referral has a common template which provides:

  • Full client contact information and/or contact information for a preferred contact person.
  • An indicator for the type of authority being used to make the referral. The types of authority, with explanations, are listed at the end of this document.
  • A feedback request box. If the referral outcome may have some impact on other work you are doing with the client, or you just wish to be kept up-to-date on the case progress, you can tick the box and you will receive an email alert when the referral is updated. Remember all your sent referrals will remain accessible to you in your sent box.
  • The originator and their organisation are automatically entered into all new referrals. The target organisation is then selected from a drop down box of registered organisations.
  • There is a 'Short description' panel to give a browsing indication of what the referral is about, for example, 'A full benefit review is required'.
  • The Notes panel is to be used to give the receiving organisation any further information that will help with the initial contact. If the client has any specific needs or a very large dog, this should be noted. Please remember that when we work together we have a collective responsibility to keep one another safe.
  • Underneath the Notes panel there is provision to upload up to three documents; these can be PDF’s or Word format. Alongside each uploaded document is a panel to enter the title of the document. If a signed authority is used, it should be uploaded here.

When you log into MARS, you will see a simple set of three tabs, above which is an array of search facilities so you can find the referral you want.

The three tabs are:

Referrals TO your organisation:

All incoming referrals will appear in this 'inbox'. When you receive an email alert to inform you that a new referral has been received, you can view the referral and select either “accept” or “decline”. If you decline the referral you have the opportunity to describe the reasons for declining. An email alert is automatically issued to the originating organisation to inform them that a referral has been declined.

Referrals FROM your organisation:

All referrals you have sent will appear in this box. If you have requested feedback on a referral this is where you will view the feedback once you receive an alert feedback has been made. You can also see the status of your referrals and check when they have been accepted.

Referrals HELD by your organisation:

If for any reason you choose not to issue a referral at the time of completion, or if your organisation does not use a CRM system, you may like to use the MARS facility as a client record. You can enter client contact details, upload relevant documents and keep notes on cases using this facility.

Frequently asked questions

Question: Who can see my referrals?
Answer: Only those members of your organisation who are registered as users and the receiving organisation’s registered users can see your organisation’s sent/received referrals.

Question: Where is the data stored?
Answer: The complete site is hosted on a secure server, the security certificate for which is viewable on the Online Resource Centre front screen. The security level used is the same level as that used for online banking services.

Question: How much does this cost?
Answer: Registration and usage is free; all that is required is that we work together to provide more complete and joined-up services for our individual client groups.

Question: How do we get registered?
Answer: All you need to do to register your organisation for using MARS is to send a request email to the email address below. We will then contact you and add your organisation into the system. You will need to designate who will be your system manager. Other users from your organisation can then be added by the system manager.

Question: Is there any training available?
Answer: The system is very simple to use. However, if you feel your organisation would benefit from a little support, this will be provided to help you get started.

We would ask all registered organisations to sign the data-sharing agreement and read the protocols; these are standard and ensure that everyone understands their individual responsibilities. (The Data Sharing Protocol, Data Sharing Agreement and the written form of consent can also be downloaded from the eHub Bulletin Board page.)

The registration process for MARS could not be easier; just email and we will arrange to get you registered as soon as possible. You will need to nominate someone to act as your system manager. This person will be able to add new users for your organisation, manage your referrals and set who gets email alerts. If you feel a familiarisation visit would help, we will arrange that for your organisation.

To register your organisation as a MARS user organisation, email

Forms of Consent

MARS provides for three forms of consent. The consent referred to is the consent of the client for you to share their information with another organisation. The three forms are described below.

Written Consent: also known as 'explicit', 'express' or 'direct' consent. It means that an individual is clearly presented with an option to agree or disagree with the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information. We would require that the standard Gateway form of consent is completed for this type of referral. This level of consent should be used when sensitive or highly personal information is to be provided with the referral.

Verbal Consent: also known as 'implicit', 'deemed' or 'indirect' consent. Very often when the point of contact is over the telephone or at an event, the simple question, ‘Would you like me to make a referral to such-and-such an organisation on your behalf?’, will suffice if you are not transferring sensitive information. If the answer is 'yes', this would constitute verbal consent.

Implied Consent: Very occasionally when it is not possible to get a verbal or written consent from the client, implied consent can then be used, but only if it is clear that the referral benefits the client and the assumption can reasonably be made that they have consented by having contacting your organisation in the first instance.

Working together and ensuring we are compliant with current legislation protects us all. The standard form of consent can be downloaded from the eHub Bulletin Board page. Individual organisations can put their own logos into the form if they wish.


  • Documents that are uploaded to the system should be PDF files if possible. The maximum document size for uploading is 5 megabytes.
  • The Data Sharing Protocol, Data Sharing Agreement and the written form of consent can also be downloaded from the eHub Bulletin Board page.

Hugh Tomlinson
On behalf of
The Gateway collaborative steering group