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Medicare requires the GP to see and assess their patients before referring any patient to a specialist. This referral process allows for the efficient and proper use of consultant resources and ensures fair and timely access to specialist services by patients who need them. Referrals are valid for 12 months. This is because, it is intended that patients visit their GP at least annually for reassessment and to ascertain if the referral is still indicated and has your latest up-to-date information.

By law, referrals CANNOT be backdated. Please do not ask doctors to do this, as they will have to politely refuse. The specialist's receptionist's role is to ensure you have a current referral before your visit.

Medicare has advised that phone calls from the specialists' rooms on the day of consultation are not acceptable. If you see a specialist without a referral from your doctor, you will have to bear the cost of the consultation as no Medicare rebate will be payable. Provision of a referral usually requires a visit to the doctor to ensure all information is current and relevant. The fee for providing a referral without a consultation is $20 (no charge if done in a consultation).

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