Getting a referral

You are entitled to ask for a referral for specialist treatment on the NHS. The following is what happens when you seek help from the NHS.

1. Appointment with a GP at your registered practise

2. If your GP thinks you need a specialist referral, they will recommend which hospital or clinics would be appropriate to visit.

3. You have the right to choose which hospital or clinic you're referred to by your GP as long as it is offering a suitable treatment that meets NHS standards and costs

4. You or your GP can book your first outpatient appointment through the NHS e-Referral Service system:

  • Your GP can book it while you’re at the surgery, or
  • You can book it online using the Appointment Request letter your GP gives you. or 
  • You can phone the NHS e-Referral Service appointments line on 0345 6088888 (open Monday-Friday, 8am to 8pm and on weekends and bank holidays 8am to 4pm)

If you ask your GP to refer you to a specialist, they may first suggest that you try various tests or treatments to see whether your condition improves. You cannot self-refer to a specialist within the NHS and a specialist will only see you with a letter of referral from your GP. The letter will give the specialist essential background information, such as your medical history, and it will also contain details for the specialist to pay particular attention to. 

If you wish to see a private specialist you are still advised to get a letter of referral from your GP. However, whether you see a private specialist, with or without a GP referral, or are referred to an NHS specialist, your GP is not obliged to accept the specialist's recommendations.

Under the NHS Constitution, if your GP refers you for a condition that isn’t urgent, you have the right to start treatment led by a consultant within 18 weeks from when you are referred, unless you want to wait longer or waiting longer is clinically right for you.

To find out more visit the NHS website