Public specialist clinics across Victoria will start assessing referrals against the third batch of Victorian Department of Health statewide specialist clinic referral criteria from 1 May 2021.
These provide clear, consistent criteria to help people receive appropriate specialist care in public specialist clinics.
Developed by the Department of Health, this batch of criteria includes selected conditions in Endocrinology, Cardiology, Rheumatology, Ophthalmology and Obstetrics. These build on the previous statewide referral criteria launched for ENT, Vascular Surgery, Urology, Neurology, Gynaecology and Gastroenterology. The statewide referral criteria were designed and implemented by the Department of Health following consultation with the health sector, including heads of units or specialists from across Victoria, health service nursing and allied health clinicians, GPs and GP liaison officers.
The statewide referral criteria provide guidance to referring clinicians about which patients will be reviewed in public adult specialist clinics and what investigations are required to support accurate triage. Referrals that do not meet the criteria will be declined and returned to the referrer. Referrers should receive a letter clearly stating why the referral has been declined from the health service.
Referrers can seek guidance from HealthPathways or online care pathways to:
- review referral criteria
- support the safe management of patients in primary care when referral to a public specialist clinic has been declined or is not yet indicated.
HealthPathways offers specific clinical advice, including alternate conservative management options and referral pathways such as suitable allied health referral options.
Primary Health Networks (PHNs) have been funded to support the adoption of the statewide referral criteria into primary health through inclusion within HealthPathways and online care pathways sites. The new statewide referral criteria are available across all Victorian HealthPathways websites (or equivalent online care platform for South Eastern Melbourne PHN), alongside related clinical and referral pathways. Alternatively, the statewide referral criteria can be viewed on the official Department of Health website at src.health.vic.gov.au
Janelle Devereux, Executive Director of Health Systems Integration, North Western Melbourne PHN said the statewide referral criteria provides greater clarity for GPs and patients about what will and won’t be accepted in public specialist clinics across Victoria.
“While the setting of access criteria for referral in Victorian public hospitals is not new, consistency across the state promotes greater equity,” Ms Devereux said.
“These criteria strive to ensure people receive the right care, in the right place and at the right time, regardless of where they live. This is especially important now, when we are addressing surgical waitlists and risk associated with deferred care caused through COVID.
“In addition, the supporting clinical and referral pathways on HealthPathways, ensures that patients not suitable for public specialist services will not be disadvantaged but will continue to receive high quality, evidence based, appropriate care in the primary care setting.”
PHNs are committed to supporting general practice with implementation of these changes, offering support to general practices who are unfamiliar with the new referral criteria and the HealthPathways platform.
PHNs are also using this opportunity to raise awareness of the need to improve communication from hospitals to GPs and patients, and are advocating for the statewide referral criteria to be extended to include hospital discharge criteria.