where is my referral letter?
Understanding the basics about referrals
When a GP feels you need to see a specialist they will need to send a letter to them first. In that letter they will outline a good detailed summary of your difficulties along with other parts of your medical history – such as medical, past medical history and family history. This letter is often dictated into a tape which is then typed up by our secretaries. This letter is either printed and sent off via a courier or in some cases sent electronically (if the hospital department has this functionality). As you can imagine, this takes a little time. In the case of urgent referrals, the system is different and speedier (sent within 24-48 hours).
I think I need a referral
A lot of patients automatically think that when they have a problem, they need a referral. We understand why this happens – it’s because patients naturally get very worried. And in other countries (where the patient has to pay), patients can directly refer themselves to specialists – thus bypassing the GP. However, if we adopted such a process in this country, where the health care is free, the NHS would simply not be able to cope. The waiting lists would be massive. Consultants would be worn out and make mistakes!
However, the fact of the matter is that in the United Kingdom, GPs can deal with most problems. We see lots of headaches, back pains, bones pains, muscle aches, breathing difficulties and so on. Because we have this experience behind us, we generally are pretty good at knowing what needs referring and what doesn’t. We don’t mind you asking us whether you need a referral or not, but please, allow your GP to do their job and make that decision. You’re GP will be happy to explain why they think you do or do not need to be referred.
If you feel you need a referral (even though your GP might not), please explain the reasons upon which you base your decision. Your GP will do the same. Hopefully, you can then both come to a mutually agreed position. And it’s possible, after this dialogue, that the GP agrees with you.
Always give your GP accurate information – the more precise your story, the more accurate a diagnosis your GP can make. If you fabricate or exaggerate your symptoms, wrong diagnoses get made – which results in unnecessary tests or things being completely missed – which is not good for anyone! Tell the doctor exactly how it is. Remember, GPs are here because they want to help you.
So, when do GPs send off a referral?
Your GP will have no problem in referring you if your health problem
- is outside of their expertise or capability
- requires specialist input
- requires specialist tests
- requires specialist medication.
- is very worrying and suggests something serious going on.
My GP said they’ve referred me but I’ve heard nothing!
A ROUTINE REFERRAL
If the doctor has said they were planning to refer you to a hospital department ROUTINELY (i.e. not as an urgent case) to a hospital department, please remember it can take up to 6 weeks for your first appointment to arrive. Try not to ring the surgery until this time has elapsed. The surgery will not know when your appointment will be as we are usually not given this information – you will hear about your appointment date before we do! If it is longer than 6 weeks, then please do ring and ask us and one of our receptionists can chase it up for you.
AN URGENT REFERRAL
However, if your doctor said they were referring you URGENTLY for something, then you should be seen within 2 weeks (especially if you have been what they call ‘fast tracked’). Suspicious cancers, for example, are fast-tracked. If you have not heard anything within 2 weeks, please contact the surgery urgently and ask to speak to the doctor that referred you.
Can I choose to be referred somewhere else other than my home city/town?
Yes, you can! You don’t have to stick with Bradford just because you live here. You can opt for Leeds , Harrogate or anywhere else providing you are willing to travel there (even for pregnancies). Do bear in mind that if you decide to be seen at (say) Leeds, then any follow up arrangements will be at Leeds too. Would you be willing to do that? Do take this into account when making your choice. Hopefully your doctor will ask you where you would like to be seen, but if they don’t, don’t be afraid to ask.
“If you have been referred somewhere on an URGENT or FAST-TRACKED basis but have not heard anything within 2 weeks, you MUST get in touch with us URGENTLY”