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Specialists

Referrals

  • If your child needs to see a specialist doctor, either a GP or another specialist will need to refer him/her. Referrals from GPs are valid for 12 months. Referrals from other specialists are valid for only 3 months.
  • If your child needs to see the specialist beyond the date covered in the referral, you will need a new referral from the original doctor. 
  • It is your responsibility to ensure that your child's referral is current at the time of the consultation, although staff may remind you when you contact the specialist's office for an appointment. 
  • If the specialist is likely to have a long-term involvement with your child, you may ask if he/she would accept an ‘indefinite referral’ from your referring doctor, as this will save you having to remember to update that referral on a regular basis.
Choosing your own specialist

If you have a preference, you can ask to be referred to a specialist of your choice. When choosing your child’s specialist consider:

  • The recommendations of other parents: word of mouth can be a valuable resource.
  • Will you prefer a specialist who offers bulk billing? 
  • Are you prepared to travel the distance to the consulting rooms on a regular basis, if required? 
  • If your child is likely to be admitted to hospital, should you see a specialist who consults at the hospital your child is most likely to utilise?
Consultations: Public vs Private

Public consultations: some specialists consult in the Outpatients Department of public hospitals. There may be delays on busy days, and the length of the appointment may be limited. Public consultations are usually bulk billed.

Private consultations: you may see a specialist privately at his/her own rooms if you wish. In this case you have the advantage of being able to build a relationship with that person, and he/she can admit your child as a public patient if a hospital admission is required. With private appointments there are often shorter waiting times, appointments can be made sooner, and you have more choice of appointment times. Another advantage is that if you take your child to the emergency department, staff will phone your Consultant (or their representative) and liaise with them directly. Private consultations with specialists usually incur a charge, but some specialists may bulk bill in certain situations.

Changing specialist or getting a second opinion

After an initial consultation, it is important to ask yourself, "Do I feel comfortable with this specialist?” and "Can I see us developing a good working relationship with him/her?” If for any reason you are not satisfied with the specialist your child is seeing, you are entitled to request a referral to a different specialist. This can be difficult for parents, who may feel embarrassed or concerned that such a request will impact on the potential treatment of their child. It is crucial that you have trust and confidence in your child's doctor as well as good communication. Remember that you are your child's advocate. It is vital that you are able to work in partnership with your child’s specialist to achieve the best health outcome for your child.

Specialised paediatricians

Your child may be referred to a paediatrician for an opinion on a particular problem and may only need a few consultations with a general paediatrician. Children with complex or chronic medical issues may need long term attention from a paediatrician. In this case it may be worth requesting a referral to a paediatrician specialising in child development and/or disability, who can co-ordinate treatment for all your child's ongoing medical needs.

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Extract from " There's no such thing as a silly question", produced by interACT and published by Very Special Kids. Reproduced with permission.
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08-Dec-2015 5:11 AM (AEST)