Research Article

Referrals to hospital by general practitioners: a study of compliance and communication.

BMJ 1988; 297 doi: (Published 12 November 1988) Cite this as: BMJ 1988;297:1246
  1. K. J. McGlade,
  2. T. Bradley,
  3. G. J. Murphy,
  4. G. P. Lundy
  1. Department of General Practice, Queen's University, Belfast.


    To determine the extent of non-attendance at first hospital appointments 269 hospital referrals made in one practice over 14 weeks were analysed retrospectively. Non-attendance was more likely among patients referred to outpatient departments than to casualty or for admission. Fifteen per cent (41/269) of all patients and 20% (33/167) of outpatients failed to keep their initial appointments. Prolonged waiting times from referral to appointment were significantly related to non-attendance. Twenty weeks after the last referral had been made no communication had been received by the practice for 24% (61/252) of all referral letters received by the hospital. Minimum delays to appointments and improved communication between hospitals and general practitioners would help general practitioners to make appropriate referrals and improve compliance.