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Refer to Specialist Outpatient Service

Patients can be referred to specialist Outpatient Services from:

  • General practitioners (GPs)
  • Medical practitioners within the hospital (e.g. Emergency Department, inpatient units)
  • Medical practitioners' private rooms
  • Medical practitioners in other hospitals (transfer)
  • Other health care professionals (e.g. optometrist to ophthalmologist).

The clinical assessment criteria and the administrative requirements for referring a patient to specialist Outpatient Services are the same irrespective of the source of referral. This includes all referrals made by medical and other practitioners from within the hospital to Outpatient Clinics.

An approved specialist referral form (template) should be submitted by the referring practitioner for all patients regardless of the source of the referral; however well-written and complete referral letters will be accepted as long as all the required information is included.

Referral Standards

Referrals to specialist Outpatient Services must be in writing (e.g. letter, facsimile, electronic file) and should include the following information:

  • The patient's full name (or alias) and where appropriate (e.g. for a minor) the name of the parent or caregiver
  • The patient's address
  • The patient's telephone number (home and alternative)
  • The patient's date of birth
  • Next of kin/carer/guardian/local contact for paediatric referrals
  • Hospital Unit Medical Record Number (UMRN) and Medicare number (if known)
  • Past history including details of previous treatment, investigations including x-rays (photocopied results and films where appropriate)
  • Presenting symptoms and their duration and details of any associated medical conditions which may affect the presenting condition, or its treatment (e.g. diabetes)
  • Details of current medications and any drug allergies, GP diagnosis and categorisation with reference to the pre-referral guidelines where available
  • Details of current and relevant past medications
  • Allergies and drug intolerances
  • Date of referral, details of referring practitioner and GP details if different from the referring practitioner and the name of the doctor/ clinic to which the patient is being referred

Patients being re-referred with the same problem will have a letter containing the relevant information directed to the original specialist who will arrange an appropriate follow-up appointment at a routine clinic.

The use of the standard referral template is recommended to ensure the provision of adequate referral content.

THS will ensure referrals include adequate information to allow categorisation, prioritisation and direction of patients to appropriate services as per the pre-referral guidelines for First Specialist Assessment.

THS will implement procedures to inform referring practitioners with respect to appropriate referral content, such as the THS Outpatient Website.

Referring practitioners will be encouraged to meet referral requirement through regular feedback processes (e.g. telephone, letter).

THS will identify inadequate or incomplete referrals and, where necessary, return the referral for more complete information.

Pre-referral Guidelines

To ensure patients are receiving the most appropriate care within the desired timeframe, referring healthcare providers should ensure that the referral includes all history, examination and examination findings listed in the pre-referral guidelines.

Referral Non-acceptance

Referrals to Outpatient clinics undergo a triage process prior to an appointment being made. Referrals that do not have all the requested information and investigations for triage will not be accepted and will be returned for a number of reasons.

  1. The referral is missing details of Medical Imaging marked as required in the Outpatient guidelines. The Medical Imaging requested is essential to allow efficient triage to be made and is usually more quickly obtained in general practice.
  2. The referral is missing details of Pathology investigations marked as required in the Outpatient guidelines. The Pathology investigations requested are essential to allow efficient triage to be made and are more quickly obtained in general practice.
  3. The referral does not contain the required clinical, past and/or family history requested to ensure efficient triage. The list was developed from national best practice guidelines.
  4. Some THS services are not provided on an outpatient basis.
  5. Referrals must be legible to ensure that no mistakes are made in the triage process and therefore referrals that cannot be read easily, and may lead to confusion, will be returned.
  6. In order for an appointment to be made it must be possible to identify and contact the patient, this includes details of parents/guardian in the case of a minor. All referrals with insufficient demographic information will be returned to the referrer.
  7. The requested service is Not Routinely Funded.
  8. The THS has developed guidelines to ensure that patients are seen by the most appropriate clinician and these guidelines are publically available. It is requested that referrals are made to the correct service.
  9. When the patient’s condition has significantly changed a new or updated referral needs to be sent. A patient’s position on the waiting list will not be reviewed by the resending of the original referral without additional information.
  10. A number of services are not offered at the THS as they are better managed in the community. These services are listed on the relevant pages.

Where there is dispute about the non-acceptance of a referral a letter should be sent to the clinic in the first instance. It will then be appropriately investigated including referral to General Practice Liaison.

Active Life of Referral

As per the Medicare referral rules outlined in A Guide to Medicare and other HIC health programs available at, referrals issued by:

  • A GP to a specialist referral remains valid for a single course of treatment (an episode of care) or for a period of 12 months from the initial specialist outpatient consultation, whichever is the lesser. GPs can indicate a shorter, longer or indefinite period for referral.
  • A specialist to specialist referral remains valid for a single course of treatment (an episode of care) or for a period of three months from the initial specialist outpatient consultation, whichever is the lesser.

An episode of care commences at the initial consultation, continues through treatment and concludes when the patient is returned to the care of the referring practitioner.

On the occasion of referral for chronic or long-term conditions that will extend beyond three or 12 months, the referring practitioner will detail the patient's clinical condition and whether they will require continuing care and management by a specialist. Examples of these may include Renal and Oncology referrals. In these instances, wording on the referral must indicate that the referral is valid for an indefinite period.

Unrelated Condition

The presentation of an unrelated illness or condition which may result in another course of treatment (episode of care) in another specialty will require a new referral for first specialist assessment. In such cases the treating specialist will refer the patient to their GP for management.

In extraordinary circumstances a treating specialist may elect, on clinical urgency grounds, to directly on-refer to another specialty within the hospital. In such cases the pre-referral guidelines (where available) will be applied by the referring specialist.

Timeliness of First Specialist Assessment

If at the time a referral is received, or at any time thereafter, the hospital considers that a specialist is unable or is unlikely to be able to provide assessment or treatment within the recommended timeframe, the hospital will take responsibility for expediting access to care. Options available in the first instance include:

  • Transferring the referral (which may require seeking a new referral from the GP) to another specialist within the same hospital
  • Transfer the referral (which may require seeking a new referral from the GP) to another hospital where an earlier outpatient appointment can be provided
  • Having the patient reviewed by nursing or allied health staff

Clinical Monitoring of Patients on the Outpatient Services Wait List

  • The referring practitioner will assume the responsibility for clinical monitoring and communication to facilitate timely and appropriate clinical management of their patients registered on the Outpatient Service wait lists who are awaiting initial consultation
  • Referring practitioners will be notified of the need to monitor the patient's clinical condition and communicate any changes to their condition
  • Referring practitioners will be asked to notify the facility in writing of any changes to the patient's clinical status - the need for subsequent re-categorisation will then be considered by the triaging clinician


Appropriate and timely communication is vitally important when providing information about Outpatient Services to patients, referring practitioners and health care professionals.

Categorisation of Referral

For more information about how referrals are categorised for priority, please see Categorisation of Referral

Wait List System

Facilities will maintain a wait list to register essential details about all patients requiring Outpatient Service consultation.

Removal from the Outpatient Service Wait List or Appointment Schedule

Reasons for removal from the Outpatient Service wait list or appointment schedule include:

  • Patient request to have name removed
  • Clinical review or administrative audit ascertains that Outpatient Service attendance is no longer required
  • Advice that the patient has been or will be attending elsewhere for treatment of the same condition
  • The patient:
    • Has declined the offer of a clinic appointment without valid reason
    • Has not presented for a booked clinic appointment and has not contacted the facility
    • Has not responded to audit measures and cannot be located
    • Is deceased
  • View the indicative outpatient appointment waiting times

Procedures Not Routinely Funded

For more information about which surgical procedures are not routinely performed in Tasmanian Public Hospitals, please see Procedures Not Routinely Funded.


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