Health services such as Accident and Emergency (A&E), sexual health clinics, walk-in centres, and out of hours services don’t need a GP referral. When people have a health problem that can’t be dealt with by the GP because it needs more specialised knowledge, skill or equipment than the GP has, they are often referred to hospital. The GP decides what kind of specialist the patient needs to see and contacts them on the patient’s behalf to get them an appointment – this is called a ‘referral’. GPs can also refer patients to other health care services that aren’t hospital-based, such as physiotherapists. People can also be referred for counselling.
When Emma had been feeling tired and run down for several weeks, she went to see the GP. After taking a urine sample, the doctor diagnosed her with type 1 diabetes and referred her to hospital that very day. Although it was shocking for Emma to learn that she had a long-term condition, she felt that it was good to be referred to hospital straight away. Isaac was also referred to hospital quickly when he went to see the GP about a mole on his arm. The doctor was reassuring in what could have been a very worrying situation.
Emma’s GP phoned the hospital so that she could go there straight away and get the treatment she needed. Hospital staff were expecting her.
The GP told Isaac that the mole on his arm would have to be removed in hospital later that week. He phoned Isaac at home with the appointment details.
Sometimes a referral can take what feels like a long time because it may not be obvious what is wrong and whether it needs further investigation. Minor conditions will often get better on their own. Jal‚àö¬© saw several GPs over a few months because of tiredness and stomach pain, and doctors felt that the most likely cause was stress. At one appointment, though, the GP diagnosed her with a muscular back pain and also found a walnut sized lump in her neck. The doctor referred Jal‚àö¬© for an ultrasound scan. After the scan, Jal‚àö¬© went back to the GP and was told that she had several nodules on her thyroid. Because of these, the thyroid would need to be removed. A few months after surgery, when Jal‚àö¬© was still feeling very tired and had pain in her stomach, arms and legs, she was referred to hospital again: