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I am translating a Swedish text, and I am having problems translating the term "akutremiss" to British English. The term is commonly used in Swedish healthcare. It is basically a referral, of any type, where the medical issue is urgent. I have done some basic googling on some of the options, just to see which ones are the most commonly used.

GOOGLE SEARCHES AND HIT COUNTS

healthcare "acute referral"
19 700

healthcare "emergency referral"
95 400

healthcare "urgent referral"
56 800

The clear winner is "Emergency referral". "Urgent referral" is the runner up. But I feel there is a big difference in the level of urgency between "urgent" and "emergency", with an emergency being way more urgent than something which is just "urgent", at least to my ears.

Note: I included "acute referral", mostly because it is a direct translation of the Swedish term, but it sounds really strange to me. I have never heard anyone use the word "acute" to mean "urgent". The pages I checked seem to be mostly about eye damage, so perhaps the term is eyes-only (pun intended).

What are some thoughts? Is there anything like an "official" term used in the healthcare community?

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In the UK the term used is urgent referral.

The following text is taken from a local department of the National Health Service (the government body responsible for healthcare treatment in the United Kingdom). It concerns advice given to General Practitioners regarding how they should make referrals:

Referral Guidelines

Urgent suspected cancer (USC)

All urgent suspected cancer (USC) can be emailed to xxx@nhs.net. -- Croydon Health Services, NHS.

The Cancer Research UK organisation also makes reference to this specific type of referral in their advice for patients:

What is an urgent referral?

Your GP has arranged for you to see a hospital doctor (specialist) urgently. This is to investigate your symptoms further. You might have some tests to find out what is wrong and if it could be cancer.

Your appointment is arranged with you by phone or post. Or you might book your own appointment online. Your GP will explain what to do if this is an option for you. - cancerresearchuk.org

Regarding the point you make in your question that:

...there is a big difference in the level of urgency between "urgent" and "emergency", with an emergency being way more urgent than something which is just "urgent", at least to my ears.

I agree, but I don't think the wording is accidental on the part of the healthcare professionals. My thinking is that they do not want to create fear or panic in the patient, and an emergency referral would likely do that more often than an urgent referral would.

Edit:

Also a referral implies a passage of time between the referral and being seen by a medical professional - as @MaxWilliams astutely points out in his comment, this doesn't really suit the use of the word emergency:

..."Emergency" is reserved for cases where someone needs immediate medical attention - they've had a heart attack/stroke, or suffered a severe injury, for example. So, an emergency is ambulances with wailing sirens etc. You would never have a referral in this context: "You seem to be bleeding heavily from your neck, I'm referring you to a neck specialist".

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    Great answer. Regarding "Urgent" vs "Emergency" - I think "Emergency" is reserved for cases where someone needs immediate medical attention - they've had a heart attack/stroke, or suffered a severe injury, for example. So, an emergency is ambulances with wailing sirens etc. You would never have a referral in this context: "You seem to be bleeding heavily from your neck, I'm referring you to a neck specialist". This wouldn't happen. An urgent referral is more like "You appear to have late stage cancer - you need to see a specialist immediately". This isn't an emergency as such. – Max Williams Nov 22 '17 at 10:28
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    This answers my question perfectly. Thank you very much. – Henrik Söderlund Nov 22 '17 at 13:01

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