Patient and public

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Information about specialists

Do I need a referral from my GP to see an NHS specialist?

In the UK, the most common route into specialist care is through referral from your general practitioner (GP). GPs hold your medical records and have an overview of your health and treatment, so are well placed to advise on which specialist services you may need to be referred to.

You can ask your GP for a referral to an NHS specialist, and your GP will decide whether it is clinically necessary in your case to make the referral. 


Do I need a GP referral to see a private specialist?

If you wish to see a private specialist, you are generally advised to get a referral from your GP. It is possible to see a private specialist without a referral, but it is up to an individual consultant whether to take on patients without a referral.  

GPs are not obliged to make a private referral, and would only do so if they think the referral is clinically necessary. GPs may not charge their NHS patients for making a private referral. 

Find out more in our guidance on the interface between NHS and private treatment


Where can I find a specialist?

The BMA does not hold the medical register and we are unable to recommend individual specialists or to provide lists of doctors working in the various medical specialties. 


What kind of specialist should I see?

Your GP is best placed to advise on which type of specialist treatment you may need referral to. You can find general information on the different medical specialties in the Dr Foster medical dictionary.

Browse the Dr Foster medical dictionary


How can I check the success rates of my consultant?

The NHS website has information about consultant performance for a range of operations and treatments, to help you make decisions about your care.

The data compares the clinical outcomes for each consultant against the national average. You can see how many times a consultant has performed a particular procedure and the mortality rate for that procedure. You may wish to discuss the data with your GP or consultant before making treatment choices, as there could be reasons why the outcome data is above or below the average.   

Find out more on the NHS website 


Can I get a second opinion?

Patients can ask their doctor or healthcare professional for a second opinion. Although there is no automatic right to obtain a second opinion, if reasonable, efforts should be made meet such requests. 

If you would like a second opinion after getting advice from your GP, you can ask to be referred to another GP. 

If you would like a second opinion after seeing a consultant, you should go back to your GP and ask to be referred again. If you see a new consultant, the consultant will be told it is a second opinion, and will be sent any relevant test results or X-rays previously done. 

Find out more on the NHS website