Hospital Appointments and Referrals

Your doctor will have written a referral letter but this will be a summary of the situation and will only have information up to the date it was written. 

You need to tell the specialist your own story so they understand what you want to get from the appointment and you need to understand what is going on including what happens next.

Before your appointment

  • Write down your two or three most important questions
  • List or bring all medicines or pills – including vitamins and supplements
  • Write down details of your symptoms, including when they started and what makes them better or worse
  • Ask the hospital for an interpreter or communication support if needed
  • Ask a friend or family member to come with you, if you like

During your appointment

  • Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand. For example, “Can you say that again? I still don’t understand.”
  • If you don’t understand any words, ask for them to be written down and explained.
  • Write things down, or ask a family member or friend to take notes

Before you leave your appointment

Check that:

  • You’ve covered everything on your list
  • You understand, for example “Can I just check I understood what you said?”
  • You know what should happen next – and when. Write it down


  • “What happens next and do I come back and see you?”
  • “Who do I contact if I have any more problems or questions, including not receiving further appointment details?”
  • “Who do I contact if things get worse?”
  • “Do you have any written information or details of any support group or more help?”
  • “When will my GP be updated and do I need to contact the surgery, and when?”
  • “What are the tests for, how and when will I get the results, and what do they mean?”
  • For copies of letters written about you – you are entitled to these
  • For a sick (fit) note if you need one. The hospital specialist can and should issue these and should not ask you to see your GP to get one. They can also write notes about fitness to fly or other activities if they have given a verbal opinion.

Hospital Tests

If the hospital arranges tests they have the clinical responsibility to let you know the results and what they mean. 

They should tell the surgery but this can take a long time. 

In 2017 Salisbury Hospital stopped automatically copying results of tests to the GP – so we will not know that you have had the test or the result.

If you contact the surgery about a hospital test result you will be asked to contact the hospital directly (you are allowed to do this).

After your appointment don’t forget the following

  • Write down what you discussed and what happens next. Keep your notes
  • Book any tests that you can and put the dates in your diary
  • If issued a hospital prescription take it to the hospital pharmacy (it may not be possible to get from the GP)

Clarification of the Hospital Treatment

This is far better discussed directly with the specialist leading your treatment, and not stored up your questions for the GP. 

Questions you might ask include:

  • Are there other ways to treat my condition?
  • What do you recommend?
  • Are there any side effects or risks?
  • How long will I need treatment for?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • How effective is this treatment?
  • What will happen if I don’t have any treatment?
  • Is there anything I should stop or avoid doing?
  • Is there anything else I can do to help myself?

Answers to FAQ on Hospital Care

Most referrals are made electronically via Sarum Referral Centre. Some hospital services are not available via the electronic system and we make the appointment request by other methods. 

The hospital will then contact you directly by letter or phone call with the date and time of the appointment. 

If you cannot make an appointment please contact the hospital as soon as possible so they can use the slot for someone else.

You may have to wait longer than you would like but please do not ask us to try and get you seen sooner, even if the hospital asks you to do this. We are not permitted to write “hurry up” letters unless your condition has deteriorated significantly.

Private Referrals

A number of private referrals have not been received by the specialist in question, so we ask patients being referred privately to collect the letter from the surgery and get it to the specialist themselves. This means you know the letter has been done and sent on.

Once you have collected the letter any problems with the referral need to be raised directly with the consultant and not the surgery. You will be taking responsibility for any risks involved.