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Outpatient referral process

All referrals received by outpatient clinics will be reviewed to determine the clinical urgency of the patient’s condition. All appointments are scheduled based on patient clinical need.

Wait times for an outpatient appointment will be varied depending on the level of demand for the service.

Referrals must be submitted in writing and should contain the required minimum data to ensure timely and appropriate decision making. To assist this process a statewide referral form has been developed (in long and short versions) and is available to download below.

Additional formats of the form, compatible with clinical management software, are also available. Instructions on how to import these forms into clinical management applications are provided.

Services in country hospitals may differ from those in metropolitan hospitals. For more information about country outpatient services, country patients should contact their general practitioner or local hospital or community health service.

Referral requirements

All patients require a valid referral prior to receiving treatment in an outpatient clinic.

All referrals must include

  • current patient demographic information and contact details
  • date of referral and the duration of the referral
  • referring practitioner contact details
  • referring practitioner’s provider number
  • signature of the referrer
  • general practitioner contact details (if not the referring clinician)
  • Workcover/Motor Vehicle Accident/Department of Veterans Affairs information (where relevant)
  • comprehensive reason for referral
  • requirement for interpreter services
  • alerts to infectious status, allergies or communicable diseases that may affect other staff and patients being treated in the same vicinity
  • relevant summary information on the patient’s medical history, including current medications and allergies
  • investigations and treatment undertaken
  • relevant psycho-social issues.

In some instances additional clinical information may be required to supplement the information requested in the Statewide Standard Outpatients Referral Form. Where specific referral criteria or specific clinical pathways have been developed by Local Health Networks (LHNs) or Medicare Locals (MLs), this additional referral information will be located on the respective LHN or ML website. Referrers are encouraged to include this additional information in the referral request to SA Health outpatient services.

Incomplete referrals may be returned to referrers for completion.

Referring a public patient

Patients have the choice of seeing a doctor of the hospital’s choice within metropolitan public hospitals free of charge as a public patient.

Public patients:

  1. Will be seen by a doctor chosen by the hospital
  2. Will be treated free of charge and will not be Medicare bulk billed
  3. Will be seen on the basis of clinical need

Patients referred from the hospital emergency department must be seen free of charge as public patients.

Public patients do not require a named referral and will see a doctor chosen by the hospital.

Referring a private patient

Private patients:

  1. Can be referred to and see a specialist doctor of choice, provided that doctor is available for appointment within suitable timeframes, based on clinical need. 
  2. Will be bulk billed to Medicare and incur no out of pocket expenses.

The income from Medicare bulk billing helps the doctor and the hospital provide better services and equipment.

To be treated as a private patient in an outpatient clinic and see a specialist doctor of choice, the patient will need to:

  1. ensure they have a valid referral to a named medical specialist (this can be from a GP or another specialist)
  2. make an election to be seen as a private patient
  3. present their Medicare card
  4. sign a Medicare bulk billing form (where the specialist is bulk billing for the service).

All outpatients are seen on the basis of clinical need.

Non bulk billed private services

A minority of specialist doctors may not bulk bill for private services. The doctor must ensure that the patient is fully informed about any gaps before the patient chooses to be private.

Doctors who do not bulk bill for private services are listed on the relevant clinic list.

Referring children

Referrals for children may require additional information, such as whether the child is under the guardianship of the Minister. For particular information about referring children see the Women’s and Children’s Health Network website

Clinic locations

For clinic locations, contact details and appointments, see our outpatient clinics page.

Services outside metropolitan Adelaide

Although some outpatient services are provided in locations outside of metropolitan Adelaide, country patients may be required to travel to attend an outpatient service based in metropolitan Adelaide.

Changes to a patient's medical condition

Should there be a change in a patient’s medical condition while they are waiting for an appointment, the patient should return to their GP for a review. 

Updated information resulting from this review should be sent to the outpatient clinic and, where appropriate, contact made with the clinic to discuss the patient’s condition.

Wait times

All patients referred to an outpatient clinic will generally need to wait for an appointment. How long patients will have to wait will depend on the patient's clinical urgency and the level of demand for the service.

The following factors are generally considered when determining how urgent the patient’s condition is:

  • Whether the condition has the potential to deteriorate quickly to the point that it may become an emergency or is life threatening.
  • The level of pain, dysfunction or disability being experienced by the patient.

General practitioners are able to seek urgent/same day advice about a patient by calling the outpatient clinic directly. 

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