My referral and beyond - what happens after I have been referred? 9 out of 10 of all NHS contacts take place in primary care, your GP surgery. Your GP, a general medicine practitioner, is a specialist in family medicine. They will deal with most ailments, prescribing medication and generally guide patients through the medical circumstances they face. Every so often it will be necessary to refer patients to a specialist in a particular field of medicine.
This may be for an
A referral is sent to the specialist service. Patients have the right to choose which hospital or clinic they are referred to as long as it is offering a suitable treatment that meets NHS standards and costs. This information leaflet is to try to help you achieve the best outcomes for you from this process.
Services and specialist hospital departments vary in their approach to booking appointments. Patients may receive a phone call or letter within 2-4 weeks to which they have been referred informing them of the appointment date and time. This may be accompanied by information about what will happen during and after your first appointment. Once the referral has been sent by the practice patients are under the care of the hospital (secondary care), and no longer the GP for this condition, and tests and investigations required by the specialists must be ordered and done by the service and the appointments sent to patients. Usually there is a strict time frame to respond so it is essential that you read the letter carefully and respond appropriately.
GP practices receive hospital correspondence within 2-3 weeks after your visit and test results are always sent to the specialist who requested the test, not your GP. Once correspondence has been received by the practice GPs may have to query certain points mentioned in the letters, for example, sometimes treatments, tests or onward referrals are recommended that can only be or are best initiated by the specialist rather than the GP.
It is important that you attend your appointment for your health and wellbeing. Patients are advised that it is their responsibility to make every effort to attend their specialist appointment or liaise with the booking administrator directly if changes are required as this may otherwise lead to a delay in their being seen. Any blood tests the specialist requests must be done by the hospital not the GP surgery.
Patients who do not attend their appointment waste valuable NHS resources and can delay other patients from being seen.
Your GP should have discussed with you and/or your carer why the referral is necessary and what the expected outcomes are. Please make the doctor aware of any specific needs e.g. carer, social issues, disability etc. It is important that the details about your address and telephone number(s) are correct.
It usually takes up to 3 working days for the referral letter or form to be prepared and signed by the doctor. Where a referral is urgent, these are done and sent on the same day.
The services you have been referred to are obliged to see you and offer treatment within 18 weeks unless you choose to wait longer or it is clinically appropriate that you wait longer AND IN THE CASE OF SUSPECTED CANCER REFERRALS, TO SEE YOU WITHIN 2 WEEKS. Please contact the service you have been referred to as soon as you experience a delay.
If you do not receive anything in 3-4 weeks then you can initially contact the hospital or community service you have been referred to as per the list of telephone contact numbers overleaf.
The referral will include the reason, your name, address, date of birth, NHS number, telephone number, past medical history, current medications, allergies or sensitivities, details of investigations or tests that have been taken and the results and possible expected outcome(s).
Often letters back from specialist services can take up to 2 weeks to reach your GP. Sometimes not all test results are sent back to your GP and it is worth asking our reception team whether results have been received before making an appointment. Please note that some specialist results are best interpreted by the specialist themselves and you should have an opportunity to discuss these with the specialist instead of your GP.
The specialist service has to provide you with the following:
I have been referred for a test, when can I expect the result?
If at any stage you are not sure as to what the next steps are in your care following a hospital / specialist or other professional consultation you should in the first instance discuss this with that health professional.
If you still do not feel the outcomes or experience of the hospital or community service is not what you expected, then you should let us know or discuss again with the doctor who referred you. This is important as we would want to make sure that you are receiving the best care at all times and we may need to help you achieve this. You may not need an appointment for this, the doctor will respond to your message by calling you back.
Patients should always contact the hospital directly to raise any queries or difficulties they encounter. Contact details can be found on your hospital correspondence or their website. Some general telephone numbers are listed below. Any complaints must be directed to the hospital Patient Advisory Liaison Service (PALS), details of which can be found on the relevant hospital website.