During your visit to the doctor, s/he may feel that it is necessary for you to have a specialist assessment, investigation or treatment. You will be referred to a hospital or community clinic to be seen by an appropriate consultant. We will therefore be required to share some of your medical history with them.
This does not mean that you have a serious condition or illness, but simply that the doctor is unable to make a diagnosis or your symptoms cannot be treated in a primary care setting.
How Does Your GP Make a Referral?
Your GP will write a referral letter to the specialist, outlining your symptoms and investigations so far.
Most doctors refer relatively close to home for patient convenience and because they know the local consultants well. This is known as a local menu of healthcare providers.
Your doctor may also ask you whether you wish to be referred privately or on the NHS.
How long will I have to wait for an appointment?
Waiting times for hospital treatment vary, but you should expect to wait no longer than:
- 18 weeks for your first outpatient appointment
- Six months for inpatient treatment
- Two weeks if you’re referred urgently with suspected cancer
- Two months from GP referral for suspected cancer to treatment
- One month from the date of cancer diagnosis to treatment
Two weeks for a specialist chest pains clinic if you are suffering from chest pains and angina is suspected
Patients should be guaranteed a maximum of 18 weeks wait between a referral and the start of their treatment.
What happens after the referral?
You should be given a broad idea as to how long your referral will take.
Unfortunately, this may change due to circumstances beyond their control, such as consultant illness or the cancellation of outpatient clinics.
If you’ve not heard from the hospital after this time, you can call the outpatients department at the hospital and ask how long it’ll be before you should be seen.
If you can’t find out, call your doctors’ surgery. They can contact the relevant consultant’s secretary to check all is in hand.
While you’re waiting for your appointment, your doctor will manage your symptoms as best they can.
Should your condition worsen in that time, your doctor may try to speed up your appointment or ask for it to be changed to an urgent one.
What happens after the appointment with the consultant?
Following an outpatient appointment, the hospital doctor who saw you dictates a letter of their findings to be sent to your GP.
Although this can take less than a fortnight, pressure on hospital secretaries often means there can be a considerable delay in letters reaching the GP.
This can cause problems for both GP and patient alike, especially if a change in medication has been recommended.
In such cases, the GP has to call the hospital again to try to find out the information they need over the phone.