The procedure is as follows:
1 Your GP writes to the consultant, asking for an appointment and giving details of your condition which the consultant will use to classify you as routine, 'soonest' or urgent.
2 The consultant then writes to you with an appointment date for this outpatient clinic.
3 You attend the consultant's outpatient clinic and the consultant decides whether admission to hospital is necessary. You may not see the consultant at the clinic, but a registrar on his or her team.
4 If you do not need admission, you will be treated as an out-patient or referred back to your GP.
5 If you do need to go into hospital (perhaps for an operation) the consultant decides how urgent admission is, and puts you on his in-patient waiting list. Under the Patient's Charter this must be within 18 months.
6 After a further wait (depending on the urgency of the problem) you are admitted to hospital for treatment.
7 Following treatment you are discharged from hospital and cared for by your GP. There may be follow up appointments at the consultant's out-patient clinic.