Frequently asked questions

Your questions answered

We’ve collected here answers to the questions that patients often ask us about appointments. If your question is not answered here, please email us on

Updated 27 October 2022

What happens when my GP refers me to the MSG?

After you’ve seen your GP, they will write a letter to one of our specialists giving the reasons for your referral and any other relevant information such as the results of any tests and your medical history. 

It can take up to five days from your appointment for the letter to reach our specialist. 

The specialist will then review your referral and decide if it is urgent, which under the contract with the States means you should be seen within seven days, or routine, which means you should be seen within eight weeks. 

They will always do their very best to fit you in within the target waiting time but for some hard-pressed specialities such as orthopaedics or gastroenterology that may not be possible. 

If the referral is an emergency, which means your GP thinks you need to be seen in the next 24 hours, instead of sending a letter they will usually ring the specialist who is on duty and give them the information over the phone. The specialist will then decide when to see you. 

How does the specialist decide when to see me when they get the referral?

Our specialists consider each referral carefully. They use their experience of caring for patients over many years to decide how soon each patient needs to be seen. They take into account what clinics they’ve got coming up and how busy the clinics are, and how many other patients are waiting to be seen. 

So, although your GP may have said to you that your referral is urgent, the specialist may decide that it is perfectly ok for you to be seen as a routine referral. 

The specialist then passes on your referral letter to their PA with their decision on when you need to be seen. The PA will write to you or call you with an appointment date and time as soon as one becomes available. This may be within days, or it may be several weeks later. 

What if I need to have tests done before I see the specialist?

Your specialist may decide that you need to have some investigations done such as an X-ray or blood tests before they see you. We will normally arrange these tests before we confirm the date and time of your outpatient appointment to make sure that the specialist has the results when they see you. 

The time taken to get the results of tests varies – it's normally between five and 10 days. 

What if the GP refers me as a private patient? 

We follow the same process of assessing your referral and making an appointment in line with clinical priority for our private patients. But because our specialists see private outpatients outside the clinic times that are allocated to contract patients, you are likely to be seen more quickly if you are referred as a private patient. 

If I call the consultant’s PA, will I get to be seen sooner?

Our appointments are allocated in order of clinical priority, and we will contact you as soon as an appointment becomes available. We understand that it’s frustrating to wait to hear, but it won’t make any difference to your appointment time if you call or email the consultant’s PA. If anything, the time they take to respond to patients’ enquiries means they have less time available to progress appointments for other patients.  

Is there anything I can do to make sure the appointment letter reaches me?

If you have moved house within the last few years, please check that your GP practice has your most up to date address as we will send the appointment letter to the address that is on your records. Please also ensure they have your latest contact phone number and email address. 

What if my symptoms get worse while I am waiting for an outpatient appointment?

If you are experiencing increasing discomfort, please contact your GP who will be able to help. Please also contact your GP if you believe your condition is significantly deteriorating or becoming more complex so that they can let us know. We will always give priority to serious and complex cases. 

If the specialist prescribes drugs for me, can I get a repeat prescription from the MSG?

No. Under our contract with the States of Guernsey, repeat prescriptions must be prescribed by your GP. 

What if I am on a recall list?

We will aim to offer you a recall appointment at the recommended time. However, for services that are under pressure such as gastroenterology, we will assess the clinical priority of patients on a recall list against the clinical priority of new patients who have been referred to us and we will offer appointments accordingly. 

What if I don’t need my appointment any more?

Please let us know as soon as possible so that we can offer your appointment to someone else. Last year more than 3000 patients either did not attend or cancelled at the last moment, a ‘did not attend’ rate of 6%. 

If there is a long waiting time for my MSG appointment, can I be referred to the UK instead?

If you have been referred to us for a service that we provide locally, under our contract with the HSC, you cannot be referred to the UK. Funding for off island referrals is managed by HSC and we have no influence over their decisions. In general, waiting times are much longer in the NHS than they are here. You can of course ask your GP to refer you privately to a specialist in the UK. 

Why are waiting times particularly bad for some specialities?

Like every other healthcare provider in the world, we face significant challenges. Advances in medicine and technology allow us to do much more for patients, which is good news, but it also means increased demand and increased cost. With people living longer, our patients have more complex healthcare needs, requiring the involvement of several specialities. It can be hard to recruit certain specialists and nurses to care for our patients because there is a global shortage of healthcare professionals. And, like all other healthcare systems, Guernsey is still coping with the knock-on effect of the Covid pandemic. 

Orthopaedics is an example of a specialty where demand has increased substantially because many more procedures, such as joint replacements, can be successfully carried out for many more patients. It was also affected by frequent shutdowns of all elective (non-urgent) surgery during the Covid pandemic. 

Demand has also significantly increased for gastroenterology, because endoscopy allows doctors to inspect internal organs and the digestive tract without patients having to go through major surgery. And because it is an aerosol-generating procedure (with higher risk of spreading the virus), endoscopy was restricted to urgent cases only during the height of the pandemic, and a more extensive clean of the equipment between cases meant that fewer patients could be seen. On top of this, there is an acute shortage of consultant gastroenterologists in the UK which is making it extremely difficult to find permanent or locum replacements for the two consultant gastroenterologists who left earlier this year.