7 January 2020

Public specialist clinics across Victoria will start assessing referrals against the second batch of Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) statewide specialist clinic referral criteria from 1 February 2020.

Developed by DHHS, the second batch of criteria includes referrals for selected conditions in Neurology, Gynaecology and Gastroenterology, building on the statewide referral criteria launched last November for selected conditions in ENT, Vascular and Urology. Statewide referral criteria for an additional five specialties; Cardiology, Endocrinology, Rheumatology, Ophthalmology and Obstetrics, are expected to be released throughout 2020.

The statewide referral criteria provide guidance to referring clinicians about which patients will be seen in adult public specialist clinics and what investigations are required to support 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.

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 for Neurology, Gynaecology and Gastroenterology will be available on HealthPathways Melbourne alongside related clinical and referral pathways from January. Alternatively, the statewide referral criteria can be viewed on the official DHHS website at src.health.vic.gov.au

The statewide referral criteria were designed and implemented by DHHS following consultation with the health sector. The consultative clinical review panels provided DHHS with considerations for the reform drawing on the expertise of Heads of Units or specialists from across Victoria, health service nursing and allied health clinicians, GPs and GP Liaison Officers.

Janelle Devereux, Executive Director of Health Systems Integration at North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network said the statewide referral criteria provides greater clarity for GPs and patients about what will and won’t be accepted in 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.”

PHNs are committed to supporting general practice with implementation of this new reform 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 also advocating for the statewide referral criteria to be extended to include hospital discharge criteria. GPs involvement in the panels further complement this advocacy work done by PHNs, striving for best-practice collaboration, including increasing communication between hospitals and general practice.

More information about the statewide referral criteria and the requirements for general practice is available on the Victorian and Tasmanian PHN Alliance website.

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