Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Being referred to hospital by the GP

Health services such as Accident and Emergency (A&E), sexual health clinics, walk-in centres, and out of hours services don’t need a GP referral. When people have a health problem that can't be dealt with by the GP because it needs more specialised knowledge, skill or equipment than the GP has, they are often referred to hospital. The GP decides what kind of specialist the patient needs to see and contacts them on the patient’s behalf to get them an appointment – this is called a ‘referral’. GPs can also refer patients to other health care services that aren’t hospital-based, such as physiotherapists. People can also be referred for counselling.

When Emma had been feeling tired and run down for several weeks, she went to see the GP. After taking a urine sample, the doctor diagnosed her with type 1 diabetes and referred her to hospital that very day. Although it was shocking for Emma to learn that she had a long-term condition, she felt that it was good to be referred to hospital straight away. Isaac was also referred to hospital quickly when he went to see the GP about a mole on his arm. The doctor was reassuring in what could have been a very worrying situation.
Amy saw the GP twice about ongoing stomach pain and feeling gassy and bloated She was referred to hospital for tests and diagnosed with IBS. Later she was referred by the GP to see a hospital dietician. Other people, like Simon, were also diagnosed with a long-term condition after being referred for tests by the GP.

Sometimes a referral can take what feels like a long time because it may not be obvious what is wrong and whether it needs further investigation. Minor conditions will often get better on their own. Jalé saw several GPs over a few months because of tiredness and stomach pain, and doctors felt that the most likely cause was stress. At one appointment, though, the GP diagnosed her with a muscular back pain and also found a walnut sized lump in her neck. The doctor referred Jalé for an ultrasound scan. After the scan, Jalé went back to the GP and was told that she had several nodules on her thyroid. Because of these, the thyroid would need to be removed. A few months after surgery, when Jalé was still feeling very tired and had pain in her stomach, arms and legs, she was referred to hospital again:
Vinay was also referred for tests by the GP. When he had ongoing lower back pain, he saw doctors in his home town as well as at university. One of them referred him to see a urologist (a specialist in diseases of the urinary tract and the male reproductive system). Vinay was later diagnosed as having kidney stones, some of which had passed through his system already.
When Susan had ongoing headaches and couldn’t see very well, she went to the out of hours GP over the weekend. The doctor told her that she probably had a migraine and gave her painkillers. She was also advised to go to the eye hospital a few days later for a check-up and given a note. In hospital, Susan was diagnosed with a rare eye condition. Because it was quite complicated, when she later had concerns about migraines and a fungal infection, her GP advised her to contact the hospital:
At the age of 13 Rowan started getting severe stomach pain. He saw a number of different GPs but it was unclear what was going on. He was advised to go to A&E if the pain got worse, where he was admitted and had tests done. Six months after Rowan first saw a GP about stomach pain, he was diagnosed as being lactose intolerant. This is when the body is unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products.


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