If your GP feels you need specialist assessment, investigations or treatment, they will refer you to a hospital to be seen by an appropriate specialist.

If you need to go to hospital to see a specialist you have the right to choose which hospital you are referred to by your GP. This legal right lets you choose from any hospital offering a suitable treatment that meets NHS standards and costs.

You can choose a hospital according to what matters most to you, whether it’s location, waiting times, reputation, clinical performance, visiting policies, parking facilities or patients’ comments.

How does a GP make a referral?

Your GP will write a referral letter to the specialist, outlining your symptoms and investigations so far.

Can I choose who I see?

You will be given a choice of hospitals by your GP who will write a referral letter to the specialist.

How long will I have to wait for an appointment?

Waiting times for hospital treatment vary, but you should expect to wait no longer than:

  • 13 weeks for your first outpatient appointment
  • Six months for inpatient treatment
  • Two weeks if you’re referred urgently with suspected  cancer
  • Two months from GP referral for suspected cancer to treatment
  • One month from the date of cancer diagnosis to treatment
  • Two weeks for a specialist chest pains clinic if you are suffering from chest pains and angina is suspected.

Choosing a hospital

A choice of hospital is available for most patients and in most circumstances. Exceptions include emergency and urgent services, cancer, maternity and mental health services. If you need to be seen urgently by a specialist your GP will send you where you’ll be seen most quickly.

If you are having difficulty choosing a suitable hospital and would prefer not to make the decision yourself, your GP can recommend or choose for you.