Referral letters: How to spot & write a good one

Apr 13, 2021

What is a GP referral letter? How do you spot and write a good referral letter? Learning about referral letters is essential in running your clinic.

As an allied health professional, a patient will sometimes present with an issue that sits outside the scope of your practice or expertise and requires the second opinion of a specialist. Maybe you’ll need to refer a patient to a GP (general practitioner), medical specialist or send someone for an x-ray or scan.

Alternatively, a GP will refer patients to your allied health clinic for treatment. For example, a GP might send a psychologist referral letter to you if that’s your field of expertise.

The vehicle for referring a patient in this way will be your referral letter. But how do you spot or write a good one?

You’ll also find a free referral letter template at the bottom of this article ready to be downloaded and put to use in your clinic.

How to spot a good GP referral letter

So that you can give appropriate care during treatment, a good GP referral letter provides you with all the referrer and patient information. It should have verifiable and legible content, and be concise and clear to avoid misinterpretation.

If you receive a good GP referral letter, it should have the following characteristics and details, as per The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ ‘Standards for general practices’.

So look out for the following requirements:

  • Current and correct patient information, which must include the patient’s full name, date of birth and at least one other identifier.
  • The patient’s relevant medical history, without disclosing their sensitive or irrelevant medical history.
  • Details of medication being administered and any known allergies or adverse drug reactions.
  • Full details of the referring doctor, including practice name.
  • A full explanation of the patient’s medical issue. This ensures that the practice or clinic being referred to has enough information to provide appropriate care.
  • Identification of the intended healthcare setting (yours) the referral is being directed to.

How to write a referral letter to other allied health professionals & specialists

Inevitably, you’ll be required to refer a patient to another allied health professional or GP for treatment that sits outside the scope of your clinic.

If you’re a physiotherapist and you can’t solve a patient’s particular issue, you might need to refer them to a hand specialist, chiropractor or rehabilitation professional.

Of course, this means you’ll have to draft your own referral letters to other allied health professionals or even GPs.

Firstly, although not specified by the RACGP, you should refer to the above requirements for GP referral letters.

Here are some further tips to get your referral letters on point:

  • Be succinct and to the point.
  • Only include relevant information pertaining to the issue and your previous treatment.
  • Be sure all patient and clinic/personal information is clear and correct.
  • Include your contact details.
  • Add your assessment of the issue and the background of the injury.
  • Include a specific request for further treatment.

To make your life easier, we’ve included a referral letter template below.

Referral letter template to allied health professionals

If you’re an allied health professional and you need a good GP or allied health referral letter template, please download our free template below.

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