GP's not referring to specialists


Staff member
I've had knee problems for two years now and I still can't get a referral to a specialist! 18 months ago I asked about MRI scans and a referral and was told - if it's musculoskeletal you have to self refer to physio and they assess you and decide if you need a scan or referral. So a year ago I did that - physio said take painkillers and gave me some exercises. Which haven't helped in the slightest. Said no need for a scan I can tell what it is.

Honestly - how can they possibly tell what it is without seeing what's going on inside. So it seemed I had to wait to see if things would improve - which I knew they wouldn't. A year later and I ask for a referral to a specialist. GP says - you'll need to come in for an assessment first. Really? I thought they didn't do that and you had to go straight to physio.

Anyway I've just googled this and apparently GP's are not obliged to refer you to a specialist. Not these days anyway. Of course I should have just seen a private one two years ago rather than have knock on effects - but didn't want to pay a fortune for private MRI scans. At this rate I might have to.
I am still pushing with the GP and have an appointment in a couple of weeks, but why does it have to be so hard? I may have to go private but that could be difficult without a GP referral as well.
I do not think you need to be referred to see a consultant if you go private, ring someone like BUPA and ask. As I understand it though, any test results that you have done privately will not be accepted by the NHS (in order to stop queue jumping), so if you need NHS treatment (i.e. can not afford to have the whole procedure done privately) then going private for a diagnosis would be a waste of money. As an example, when a friend of mine needed a knee replacement she was told the waiting time was 12-18 months, she went private and had in done within 3 weeks for about £16,000.
Thanks Linpet. Yes that is why I need to keep pushing for an NHS referral. If it was arthritis it would be simpler and I probably would pay the 15k or so for knee replacements. But it's mainly cartilage. Apparently - I think until it shows more arthritis they won't even consider me for knee replacements. 18 months ago I wanted to get on a waiting list for knee replacements and can't even get on a waiting list.

I suppose a private specialist could at least write to a GP recommending a course of action, after consultation and test results maybe.
I definitely think what you plan is the best way to go, private for MRI and equally push for a referral to a specialist from GP.
Once you have results from MRI you would know where you stand and what you can do about it.
It is always good to have a second opinion. I had to go private, because public healthcare failed me. I got my diagnosis by using both private and public.
I think nowadays it is the same everywhere.
I do hope you get relief soon.
I'm thinking the other way round now. Push the GP for the MRI scans and then get a specialist referral. I tried pushing for the MRI scans 18 months ago and GP wouldn't do it. Just told me to self refer to physio and said physio decides whether you need a scan or a referral or not. Shocking really as physios aren't Doctors. Of course phsyio said no I didn't need a scan - she decided it was cartilage and got me to do exercises - she had seen the scan on my left knee from 5 years ago. 5 years ago! And it's got worse since then as I put too much weight on it when my right knee went.

I have just heard that vets do laser treatment for guinea pigs with joint problems and arthritis! And it's supposed to help a lot. So I googled it and it is available for humans too. I'm so cross I've been left like this for so long. It seems cold laser therapy is classed as an alternative treatment so needs paying for anyway. So at the moment it's left I'm going to see the GP in a couple of weeks. I mentioned a referral (meaning specialist) and she said maybe you need further investigation. So Im thinking she might mean referral for MRI scans. Or maybe just x rays which won't show cartilage.

Two years ago I was wanting to get on a 3 year waiting list for knee replacements and can't even get a referral to a specialist!

Anyway - some thinking to do. The advantage of getting the MRI scans done via GP referral is I may know, from the results, whether I'd be eligible for knee replacements or not. It wouldn't be great paying for private MRI's only to be told there isn't much can be done.