Objective: To examine the reasons for referral from general practice in Finland.
Design: Survey over one week of all referrals from general practice.
Setting: Central and northern Finland, comprising 72% of the area of the country and one-third of the population.
Participants: 851 general practitioners (GPs) from public health centres.
Outcome measures: Referrals by speciality and reasons for referrals by ICD-9 and ICPC codes in terms of characteristics of patients, GPs, and practices.
Results: A higher proportion of male (39%) than female (33%) patients were referred to surgical speciality (p < 0.001). Ten per cent of the patients referred by female GPs were referred to gynaecology departments, compared with 5% of those referred by male GPs (p < 0.001). Otitis media in children and abdominal pain in adults were the commonest reasons for referral of both male and female patients.
Conclusion: Our results will be useful in developing the training of GPs with respect to those health problems that most commonly lead to a referral to hospital.