What is a medical referral letter?

  • August 1, 2020
  • 4 min
What is a Medical Referral Letter in Sydney

Your local GP is often the first point of call when seeking medical advice. While they provide a comprehensive range of healthcare services, they are trained to identify when their patients require specialised diagnosis or treatment. Your General Practitioner may refer you to a specialist to seek further medical care.

What is medical referral letter?

A medical referral letter is a formal written request from one healthcare professional to another, requesting them to diagnose or treat your condition. Typically, a GP will write a referral letter to a medical specialist.

It is also possible for allied health professionals to write referrals to other specialist services. For example, a physiotherapist may refer you to get an X-ray or visit a surgeon.

The referral letter will address the medical reason why you are being referred to a specialist, any relevant background information, and often the desired outcome of the specialist visit.

For most specialist care, a medical referral letter is required for an appointment to be made. Even if a patient has visited a specialist multiple times, this does not guarantee they will be able to book an appointment without obtaining a valid referral letter.

Despite this, patients with a chronic health condition may be able to access a referral letter that allows them to visit their specialist for an ongoing timeframe.

Referral letters are only valid for a fixed time. GP referrals to medical specialists are usually valid for 12 months, and referrals between specialists typically last 3 months before expiring. If your referral letter expires, you will need to visit your GP again and request an updated referral letter.

Why would I need a medical referral letter?

Your GP or healthcare professional can refer you to visit a specialist if they believe you would benefit from the expertise of the specialist. Additionally, they could give you a referral letter if they determine you would benefit from the specialist tests, investigations, or treatments offered.

The referring doctor will refer you to the specialist who has expertise in your condition or illness. For example, a GP may refer you to an Oncologist or Surgeon if you have cancer. Someone with pregnancy complications may be referred to an Obstetrician. Or a person with an acute musculoskeletal injury may be referred to an Orthopaedic Surgeon or a Sports Medicine Doctor.

Another reason you may receive a referral letter is for medical testing. X-rays and diagnostic imaging services can provide insight into further treatment requirements. Additionally, pathology services including blood tests support medical investigations and care.

What healthcare professionals can issue a referral letter?
Who should I visit?

Medical referral letters can be written and requested by GPs, dentists, and some allied health professionals including nurse practitioners, midwives, physiotherapists, and psychologists.

If you want to visit a medical specialist, visit your GP. This will ensure they refer you to the correct specialist for your condition. It also allows them to remain involved in your care. Your specialist can communicate your care and treatments to your GP, creating a medical network of support.

Particularly if you have a chronic medical condition, your GP can assist you to manage your condition as advised by the specialist. Also, if your condition worsens, your GP and specialist will understand your medical history and continue to adjust your treatment as required.

How do I find a medical specialist?

Medical referral letters can be written to a specific doctor or a general medical professional. For example; Dear Dr. Smith vs Dear Psychiatrist.

Your GP will often recommend a specialist based on their experience and connections. If you request a general medical referral, however, you can use Smart Referral to ensure you have a choice.

Certain medical specialists are often booked out months in advance and this is unknown by the referring GP. If you use Smart Referral, you will be aware of the next available appointment, available rebates, and the specialist’s expertise before making a booking.

Medical referral letters allow patients to assessed specialised care. They are commonly issued by GPs. If you have a medical referral letter, upload it to Smart Referral, and ensure you have a choice of practitioner.

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