Medical Referrals - Staying In The Loop


If you request, or agree to, a referral by your GP to a specialist, it may be a good idea to ask your doctor to send you a copy of any letters written about you and, when you eventually meet the consultant, to ask him or her also to copy to you whatever correspondence he or she generates in respect of your diagnosis and treatment.

The right of patients to see correspondence about them that is passed between doctors is enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The provision to patients of copies of this correspondence is considered to be 'best practice' by the Department of Health. The practice is part of the government's overall plan to increase the involvement of patients in their own healthcare, and it is the intention of the DOH that patients will routinely ask surgeries and primary care trusts about their plans for the provision of copies.

Unfortunately, in 2004, the DOH backed away from an earlier promise to instruct doctors to provide copies to patients automatically and, in the absence of compulsion, most doctors have not yet established the copying habit. There are also still those whose patriarchal mindset makes them resistant to the idea, so patients may need to apply gentle pressure and be prepared to offer preemptive reminders.

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First Published May 2006

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