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NHS Patient Referral Leaflet

What happens when a referral is made:

When you and your doctor agree that you need an appointment with a specialist or other outside agency, your doctor will make the referral for you. When referring you to a hospital – either NHS or Private, the doctor will write a letter about the reasons for the referral and additional information about you will be sent with the referral letter. All of this information will be treated in confidence.

The type of additional information sent is the same for every patient and includes patient demographics, current medication, allergies and a list of significant medical problems including operations. This list is taken automatically from your medical history that we hold electronically and includes conditions that have been recorded in the past as medically significant but which may not be specifically related to the reason for your referral. This information will be shared within the healthcare team, including administrative and other staff who support your care.

If you object to this information being sent you must discuss this with your doctor at the time you agree to the referral being made. If the referral can go ahead without the information, the doctor will arrange for your treatment without disclosing the information. If you object to a disclosure that the doctor considers essential to the provision of safe care, the doctor will explain if the referral can still go ahead without the information being disclosed.

If you are being referred to an NHS hospital your referral may be made via the Choose and Book system:

What is Choose and Book?

Choose and Book is a service that lets you choose your hospital or clinic and book your first appointment.

When you and your GP agree that you need an appointment, you can choose which hospital or clinic you go to. You will also be able to choose the date and time of your appointment.

What does Choose and Book mean for me?

As well as giving you a choice of hospital, date and time for your appointment, Choose and Book will also give you the ability to:

  • plan and manage your appointments around any existing appointments, if you are currently undergoing treatment;
  • fit your treatment in with your other commitments, at home and at work;
  • choose appointments that fit with your carer's schedule; and
  • check the status of your referral and change or cancel your appointments easily over the phone or on the internet.

How does Choose and Book work?

When you and your GP agree that you need an appointment with a specialist, Choose and Book shows your GP which hospitals or clinics are available for your treatment. Your GP discusses with you the clinically appropriate options that are available for treating your medical condition.

You may want more time to consider your choices. If so, you can collect the Appointment Request letter from the surgery once it has been prepared and book your appointment later.  Your Appointment Request letter lists your unique booking reference number, your NHS number and a list of hospital or clinic options for you to choose from. Your GP practice will also give you a password with your Appointment Request letter.

You can then decide how you wish to book your appointment; via the telephone, using the national number on the letter or via the internet.  Please note that whilst the vast majority of appointments can be booked this way, in some cases you will need to telephone your chosen hospital directly to make your appointment. This is because the hospital appointments system does not link to Choose and Book. You must book your appointment within two months of the date on your letter.

Can I book all my appointments through Choose and Book?

Once your GP has done your referral you will be notified and you can book your first hospital or clinic appointment using Choose and Book. Any follow up appointments, are arranged by the hospital themselves.

The benefits of Choose and Book:

  • You can choose any hospital in England funded by the NHS (this includes NHS hospitals and some independent hospitals).  More information about hospitals is available on the NHS Choices website;
  • You can choose the date and time of your appointment;
  • You experience greater convenience and certainty. With Choose and Book, the choice is yours; and
  • There is a reduced risk that correspondence gets lost in the post as most of the communication is done via computers.

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