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Referrals, Hospital and Specialist Care

Q. What is a specialist or a consultant?

A specialist is a hospital-based doctor who offers specialised assessment and treatment for more complex types of medical problems. They are also referred to as hospital consultants. 

In Ireland, you must first have an initial medical assessment with a GP before attending a specialist doctor. Where appropriate the GP will refer you to a specialist for further assessment, investigation, and management. 

Q. What is the differenct between a public and a private hospital?

The Health Service Executive (HSE) runs the public hospitals in Ireland on behalf of the Irish government. Everyone is entitled to go to a public hospital. There may be some charges depending on your circumstances e.g. your immigration permission/visa stamp or when attending the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department without first seeing a GP. There can often be long waiting lists for assessment and treatment in public hospitals.

A private hospital is fee-based and we would recommend that you check the terms of your medical insurance policy to ensure that the costs involved are covered by the policy. Waiting times to be seen are generally shorter in private hospitals than in public hospitals.

Q. How do I organise the continuation of my specialist care when I come to Ireland?

If you are attending a specialist doctor in your home country, it is very important that you have a consultation with them prior to travelling. The pros and cons of living in a foreign country with your condition need to be discussed. You must check that your treatment is available in Ireland and if not, consideration should be given to an alternative treatment that is available in Ireland. Alternatively, you may decide to bring your treatment with you.

Your doctor should provide you with a written summary of your diagnosis and list of medications. In some circumstances, they may also need to contact a specialist doctor in Ireland directly to ensure your treatment is available and can be arranged without interruption.

We recommend that you book an appointment with a doctor in the SHC as soon as you arrive in Ireland to ensure that any necessary specialist referrals are made for you. You will need to bring your doctors letter with you.

Please note that there may be a time delay of weeks or sometimes months before specialist doctor appointments can take place, so you need to ensure that you have enough medication with you to allow for this. This is particularly important if your medical condition could deteriorate if your medication is stopped for any reason.

You should always check in advance of travel to Ireland that your treatment is covered by your medical insurance policy.

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