Department of Health

Access to specialist clinics in Victoria

Key messages

  • The specialist clinics access policy aims to improve equity of access to specialist clinic services in Victoria.
  • It sets out timeframes for key processes performed by specialist clinics.
  • The access policy acknowledges the relationship between referrers and specialist clinics.
  • The specialist clinics access policy is being refreshed in 2018.

Better access to specialist clinics allows people to get timely intervention and advice.

The access policy aims to mitigate the impact of increasing demand for specialist clinics due to an ageing population and changing hospital practices.

Access policy for specialist clinics

The Specialist clinics in Victorian public hospitals: access policy outlines the Victorian Government’s expectations for service delivery.

These include indicative timeframes for the completion of key processes performed by specialist clinics.

Specialist clinics service improvement guide

The Specialist clinics service improvement guide is a companion document to the access policy.

It contains information, templates, examples of good practice and resources to assist health services to undertake successful redesign work in the specialist clinics environment, as well as meet the requirements and principles of the access policy.

Section 1 - process redesign in specialist clinics - outlines key process redesign concepts for reviewing current service provision and implementing improvement initiatives.

Section 2 - improving clinic processes  - discusses opportunities for improving particular specialist clinic processes at key stages of the care pathway

Section 3 - letter templates - provides letter templates and other example documents to support key clinic processes and communication.

Specialist clinics referral guideline template is designed to be modified by health services to provide GPs with specialty specific referral requirements.

Timeframes to improve access

This is a summary of the key processes and timeframes in the access policy:

  • referral screening - within three working days
  • closure of referrals pending further information - within 30 days of request
  • referral acceptance/rejection - within five working days
  • referral acknowledgement - within eight working days
  • clinical prioritisation - within five working days
  • addition to waiting list, appointment booking or urgent appointment - within three working days
  • first appointment for urgent patients - within 30 days
  • notification of new appointment when health service cancels an appointment - within five working days
  • communication with referrer about initial assessment/treatment - within five working days
  • discharge summary sent to referrer or other provider - within five working days.

See the downloads section below for the full policy document.

Communication between referrers and specialist clinics

One of the main objectives of the access policy is to improve communication between referrers and specialist clinics.

In order to be prioritised and processed, referrals should contain:

  • patient demographic information
  • clinical information including reason for referral, presenting problems, preliminary diagnosis, physical examination results, management to date, investigation results, relevant medical and social history
  • referrer details - name, contact information, referrer provider number and signature
  • referral details - date of referral, name of specialist clinic, name of specialist to whom the person is being referred.

As well as adhering to the timeframes for key processes, specialist clinics also have a role to play, including providing:

  • designated staff to respond to information requests from referrers
  • user-friendly and up-to-date information about referral requirements.

Redesigning processes

Specialist clinics can use the Guide for redesign measures for improvement for specialist clinics (available in the download section of this page) as part of quality improvement activities, and to implement the access policy.

The guide should be used in the context of a comprehensive redesign and change management framework, and in conjunction with advice from a health service’s redesign team.

This page will continue to be updated with information about the new specialist clinics access policy.

Please email the team if you would like more information.

Reviewed 21 June 2018


Contact details

Program and policy enquiries for the Special Clinics Program

Specialist Clinics Program Department of Health & Human Services

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