What happens when you have been referred to see a specialist?

The BMA, NHS England, and the National Association for Patient Participation have developed a patient leaflet that describes what patients can expect if their GP refers them to see a specialist or consultant, at a hospital or a community centre.

The leaflet also provides a helpful checklist for patients to use before they leave hospital. If you are unsure about any of the questions in the checklist, please make sure you discuss them with a member of staff before you leave hospital.

The BMA patient liaison group has also created a guide on hospital discharge which documents patients’, carers’, and doctors’ perspectives of hospital discharge. The guide includes stories about good and bad experiences to illustrate the importance of sensitive and timely ‘joined-up working to facilitate a smooth transfer of care for patients leaving hospital.

What to expect when you are  referred to a Specialist?

Tests and Investigations 

The specialist will order all of the tests you need and will communicate the results to you. If you have not heard about your results please contact their secretary at the hospital.


If the specialist prescribes a new drug or changes an existing drug the will provide you with the first prescription.

If you are issued with a white hospital prescription, it can only be dispensed at the hospital pharmacy.

It may be that the hospital will have to order in items they do not stock, but this is something they should be offering you; you will not be able to get it issued at either the practice dispensary or your local community pharmacy.

If you are supplied with a green hospital prescription these can be issued at a community Pharmacy.

Sick or Fit Note (Med3) 

If you need to be certified as unfit for work as a result of treatment provided, the specialist should issue a sick note when you leave the hospital. Please ask if you need one.

Follow Up Appointments/Onward Referrals

If you need a follow up appointment or an onward referral to another specialist the hospital will provide it. Please ask the specialists’ secretary if it does not arrive in a timely way. 

In summary, the specialists are responsible for: 

  • Looking after your test results 
  • Providing a prescription when needed 
  • Issuing a sick note if required 
  • Providing you with a follow up or onward referral appointment if necessary