What is a referral?

A referral is the process that happens when your doctor or nurse feels that you would benefit from a specialist opinion or service. A referral will usually be made after you have consulted a doctor or nurse, however, there are some services that patients can self-refer to.

There are several different areas to we can refer to.

Primary and Community care referrals

This is when you’re referred to a community based service. Examples include the community diabetic team and district nurses.

Secondary care referrals

This is when you’re referred to hospital.

Emergency referral

If the clinician feels that your problem is urgent, you’ll be referred to the Quick and Early Diagnosis service (QED/2 Week Wait). These teams aim to review patients within two weeks.

Private referral

This is when you choose to be seen outside of the NHS. These services will either be charged directly to you or be part of your private health insurance plan.

How do we refer patients?

Where possible, we use the National ‘E-referral’ system, which is a digital based system linking up your GP surgery to hospitals and other providers of services. This system gives you more choice and flexibility when you’re being referred for further care.

With this system, you can now:

  • choose from a list of hospitals that offer the service you need
  • book your own appointment

Most NHS services now use the ‘E-referral’ system. However, not all service are available on the ‘E-referral’ system and require a paper referral. In these cases, you’ll get your appointment in the post directly from the hospital. You’ll normally wait at least 18 weeks for a confirmation, but this can vary depending on which hospital and department you have been referred to.


Once the doctor has referred you we will contact you when your E-referral paperwork is ready to collect from our reception. We would expect this to be within 76 working hours (Monday to Friday) of you being seeing the doctor.

Your document will contain your:

  • Unique Booking Reference Number (UBRN)
  • Choice of Hospitals
  • Contact Numbers for booking your appointment
  • Password

You’ll need all of these details to:

  • book your appointment
  • check an appointment at a later date
  • cancel or rearrange your appointment

Next you’ll need to choose which hospital you’d like to attend, from the list you were given. You can do this online, or by clicking here.

Occasionally E-referrals may have to be ‘deferred to the provider’ or sent for triage before the hospital will accept your referral, due to a lack of appointments. If this happens the hospital or clinic you have been referred to will contact you directly with an appointment. If this happens you will be asked to collect paperwork from reception which will contain a telephone number for the hospital so that you can contact them for an appointment.

Paper Referrals

If you’re referred by paper, the hospital department or service will write to you directly. Your letter will include your appointment date, time and location.  If you haven’t had an appointment within 18 weeks please call the service’s appointment line.

If you are referred via the manual (paper) method you will receive a letter from the service with a pre chosen appointment date and time.

Changing and cancelling appointments

If you want to change or cancel your manual appointment then you’ll need to call the service provider’s appointment department or E-referral department. Their phone number will be on the letter you get.

Private Referrals

If you are requesting a private referral you can book an appointment directly with the private health provider of your choice. Please note that if you have private health insurance you may need to check with them first to see if they have an approved list of private consultants or hospitals.

Once the doctor has agreed that you require an onwards referral at your GP consultation, you will need to contact the service provider of your choice or your private health provider to make an appointment. Once the appointment has been confirmed please contact the secretary and let her know the name of the consultant that you are seeing. The secretary will then prepare a referral letter to your consultant and contact you when your referral letter is ready to collect and you can take that with you to your appointment.

Self Referrals

Self referrals do not require a GP appointment or one of the above referral processes to be seen by a specialist service.

Please make sure that you have updated your address and contact details with the practice prior to completing the self-referral. If the information you enter during the referral process does not match the information we hold on file for you the referral cannot be processed.

Please see below for details of the services that accept self-referrals.

Antenatal/Midwife Referrals – if you find out you are pregnant then you can refer yourself directly to one of the local maternity units and community midwife team without seeing a GP. Please click here  to start the referral process.

Please note that if you experience any pain, bleeding or excessive vomiting before you have been contacted by a midwife you should contact the practice to speak to a GP for advice.

BPAS (Abortion clinic, information, advice and treatment) – if you find out you are pregnant and are unsure if you would like to continue with the pregnancy you can contact BPAS for confidential advice and treatment. The costs of the majority of abortions provided by BPAS are covered by the NHS. You can contact BPAS by calling 03457 30 40 30 or you can visit their website by clicking here.

Citizens Advice Birmingham – if you need advice and support on non-medical matters such as housing or benefits, CAB provide free, confidential and impartial advice.   You can call 03444 77 1010 or you can visit their website by clicking here .

CRUSE (Bereavement Care) – if you have suffered a bereavement and feel that you need more help and support you can self-refer to CRUSE, a specialist bereavement charity, who offer free of charge face to face, telephone and email support.  You can call 0808 808 1677 or you can visit their website by clicking here.

Healthy Minds (Mental Health Services) – if you are suffering from stress and anxiety, low confidence or self-esteem or low mood and depression you can walk in and see a mental health worker for a same day assessment. This service is available on a Thursday between 1pm and 3pm. If you are unable to attend during these times please call 0121 301 2525 or visit the Healthy Minds website by clicking here to complete a self referral.

Physiotherapy (Royal Orthopaedic Hospital) – if you need to access physiotherapy services you can self refer to the Royal Orthopaedic Physiotherapy department by clicking here to visit the ROH website, printing and completing the form and handing it in to the reception desk in the department. They will contact you once you have reached the top of the waiting list.

Umbrella (Sexual Health and Contraception Services) – if you require sexual health testing or are thinking of getting a contraceptive coil or implant you can self-refer into the Umbrella service. You can contact them by calling 0121 237 5700 or click here to visit their website for further information or to book an appointment.

Approximate Waiting Times

Please see a list of clinics below for approximate routine waiting times for first outpatient appointments:

UHB (Queen Elizabeth Hospital):

Cardiology – 20 weeks from the date of referral
Dermatology – 19 weeks from the date of referral
ENT – 23 weeks from the date of referral
Pain Management – 18 weeks from the date of referral
Neurology – 31 weeks from the date of referral
Respiratory – 16 weeks from the date of referral
Sleep Clinic/Lung Function – 18 weeks from the date of referral
Ultrasound/MRI Scan – 16 weeks from the date of the referral
Urology – 27 weeks from the date of the referral

Birmingham Children’s Hospital (Paediatrics):

Allergy clinic – 16 weeks from the date of referral
Dermatology – 18 weeks from the date of the referral
ENT – 18 weeks from the date of the referral
General Paediatrics – 20 weeks from the date of referral
Orthopaedics – 18 weeks from the date of the referral
Respiratory – 18 weeks from the date of the referral
Urology – 18 weeks from the date of referral

Birmingham Women’s Hospital:

Gynaecology – 18 weeks from the date of the referral

Birmingham Chest Clinic:

Allergy – 18 weeks from the date of the referral
Chest – 18 weeks from the date of the referral

Health Harmonie (Community Gynaecology):

Gynaecology and Ultrasound – 4-6 weeks from the date of referral

Please note that these are the current indicative wait times and you may be seen sooner or may have to wait longer than these times.

Helpful Phone Numbers

Please see a list of useful phone numbers below that you can use to chase your hospital appointment if you have not received an appointment after the indicative wait times above.

UHB (Queen Elizabeth Hospital) booking centre: 0121 371 7070
UHB (Queen Elizabeth Hospital) switch board: 0121 627 2000
Royal Orthopaedic Hospital booking centre: 0121 685 4186
Royal Orthopaedic Hospital switch board: 0121 685 4000
Birmingham Children’s Hospital booking centre: 0121 333 9700
Birmingham Children’s Hospital switch board: 0121 333 9999
Birmingham Women’s Hospital booking centre: 0121 335 8100
Birmingham Women’s Hospital switch board: 0121 472 1377
Heartlands and Solihull Hospital booking centre: 0121 424 1234
Heartlands and Solihull Hospital switch board: 0121 424 2000
Birmingham Chest Clinic switchboard: 0121 424 1950