Doctors lash new referral system

Cathy O'Leary Medical Editor
Doctors lash new referral system

Doctors say a new central system meant to improve how patients are referred to a specialist at hospitals is shambolic and adding to delays.

They say instead of patients being referred from a GP to outpatient clinics quickly, some are taking weeks or the referral disappears.

The Australian Medical Association said many GPs were not even aware of the Centralised Referral System, while others found it time-consuming and error-prone.

A survey of more than 300 doctors was overwhelmingly critical of the system, introduced in February.

AMA WA president Richard Choong said GPs were expected to write referrals six pages long, instead of the previous two pages.

"It's early days but we're concerned that this just seems to be an additional layer of bureaucracy," Dr Choong said.

Shadow health minister Roger Cook said the system should be sidelined until the teething problems were sorted out.

"What is clear from the survey is that doctors are abandoning it in droves, so you have two systems running in parallel," he said.

"The rollout has been badly mismanaged and the Government needs to heed the warning of the medical profession, even if that means starting again."

One hospital administration worker, who asked not to be named, said it was a "total shemozzle".

"When we were first told about the new system we said we're not sure that's going to work and we were told to have a more positive attitude," she said.

"The promised turnaround time from when the doctor sends the referral to CRS and when it gets to the hospital was 24 hours but in some cases it's been up to three weeks and in other cases the referrals haven't been received at all."

The Health Department said it was disappointed with the findings of the survey, carried out in the first week under the system.

It said feedback from many groups, including GPs, had been predominantly favourable.

A spokesman said the service was a major change to the processing of referrals and start-up issues were being identified and resolved.