Getting an appointment with your GP can be difficult enough during busy periods, but trying to get a referral to see a specialist can be even more complicated. Unfortunately, under the NHS, you will need to go and see your GP to get a referral to a specialist, but do they have to give you one?
If you are really struggling with a medical issue, then it is really important to try and get to the bottom of it sooner rather than later. Going to see your GP is the best way to start the process, but you might not always be hearing the news that you were hoping for upon your visit.
To help you to better understand your rights when it comes to healthcare, we are going to answer all of your questions about GP referrals to specialists in this article.
Hopefully, this will help to give you a better understanding about what you are and are not entitled to. This can help you to weigh up your options and prepare for the outcome.
Getting a Referral from Your GP
If you are unwell or are experiencing any abnormal symptoms, then it is best to go and see your GP for advice when you need it. Your GP will be able to tell you if you need specialist assessment or treatment.
If your GP thinks that you need to see a specialist for whatever reason, or you want to pay for it privately, then they will be able to write you a letter of referral to a private consultant or specialist.
They will be able to explain your condition and your medical history to pass on any information that will be relevant to the specialist. This may incur additional costs at times, depending on the solution.
Can My GP Refuse to Refer Me to a Specialist?
Unfortunately, your GP can refuse to refer you to a specialist if they do not believe that specialist treatment is necessary to solve the problem.
If they think that you do not need to see a specialist, then they do not have to refer you to one. This can be said for both private healthcare and medical care on the NHS.
However, if you disagree with the decision that your GP has made, then you can ask them to refer you to another healthcare professional for a second opinion. This is when another doctor will give their opinion about your health.
Specialist Treatment Referrals
You are entitled to request a referral for specialist treatment on the NHS, but you might not always get the referral that you want. It will depend on what your GP feels to be necessary under your specific circumstances. You will need to go through your GP for any referral because they have access to all of your medical records that are held at their specific surgery.
Your GP is generally the best person to see about a referral as they will understand your health history and treatments better than anyone else. This will allow them to make a decision for specialist referrals as they can base their decision on this knowledge.
You might find that your GP first suggests that you try different tests or treatment options before giving you a referral to see if your condition improves. Sometimes, the problem can be solved before you need to see a specialist, so they might try to rule this out first.
You will not be able to self-refer to a specialist when you are with the NHS unless you aim to access either sexual health clinics or emergency treatment.
Something that you should know is that a specialist will only see you if you have a letter of referral from your GP. This letter would contain all of the essential information that the specialist would need access to.
Do I Need to See My GP for a Private Referral?
If you want to take the private healthcare route, it is still advised that you try and get a referral letter from your GP, though it is not always necessary.
However, you should know that when you do go to see a private specialist, with or without a referral, your GP does not have to accept the specialist’s recommendations.
Do I Need a GP Referral For Private Treatment?
You do not have to get a referral letter from your GP if you wish to pay for private specialist treatment. Though, it is often the best way of doing things because your GP knows your medical history and can advise you when it comes to your referral.
An instance where you might need a referral from your GP to access medical treatment is when you are dealing with private medical insurance policies. This is why it is important to check with your medical insurance to find out if they need a referral.
Can I Choose My Hospital or Consult With a Referral?
If you have been referred to see a specialist by your GP or another health professional, then you might have the right to choose which hospital that you go to for your first outpatient appointment.
You can also sometimes choose which consultant team will be in charge of your treatment.
Do I Have the Right to a Second Opinion?
Unfortunately, you do not actually have the right to a second opinion. You can ask your GP to arrange a second opinion if you want to, but they do not have to oblige if they do not believe it to be necessary. However, more often than not, your GP will refer you to get a second opinion if you ask for one.
If your GP refers you to get a second opinion, you cannot choose a particular practitioner. Even though this is the case, you should not be referred to someone that you do not want to see. If your GP is refusing to arrange for you to get a second opinion, then you might want to change your GP.