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At the heart of general practice since 1960

10 tips for making referrals

1. Before you refer anyone, be absolutely certain that they want to be referred

2. Make sure you ask your practice secretary about how letters should be dictated or written.

3. Before referring, think if there is any alternative. If in doubt, ask your trainer.

4. Be specific about why you are making the referral – if you're not sure, the consultant certainly won't be.

5. Dictating the letter whilst the patient is present is a good way of checking that you've got the story correct.

6. Offering a copy of the referral letter to patients is good practice.

7. Use local referral guidelines, and find out from your practice secretary about templates and proformas

8. For acute referrals, a computer printout of the current consultation, allergies, medications, and major problems is simple, quick, and extraordinarily valuable

9. If you admit a patient from a daytime home visit, sending a fax of this information when you get back to your surgery will add to the referral information

10. Keep a log of all your referrals so you can find what happened to the patients you refer.

Professor David Haslam is president of the RCGP

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