Referrals and templates – Frequently asked questions

How do I refer a patient through CRS?

To refer a patient through CRS, external referrers will need to complete one of the standardised referral forms and send it to the CRS via one of the approved referral methods. The CRS will then allocate the referral to the most appropriate hospital. Please note that not all patients are suitable for referral through the CRS. See Steps on how to refer a patient using the CRS for further information.

What is the preferred referral method for CRS?

The CRS prefers referral forms sent by secure messaging. Once a referral is sent via secure messaging, there is no requirement to send the original referral by fax or post as the CRS referral processing system tracks the referral from initial receipt through to acceptance by the appropriate hospital. There are many benefits associated with using secure messaging. See here for further information.

Am I required to send in my referral on a CRS template?

For Colonoscopy and Gastroscopy referrals:

Yes - referrals are required to be submitted on the CRS mandatory referral template for CRS processing. View the mandatory referral template here.

For all other referrals:

It is preferred that all referrals are presented on one of the templates provided. This will ensure that all mandatory information is included and will prevent the referral from being sent back to the GP for further information. However, if all required information is included in the referral, CRS will accept a referral that is not on one of the provided templates. View the referral templates here.

If the referral is rejected by CRS and sent back to the GP due to missing information, will the timeframe for an appointment allocation be dated from the initial request?

No - the timeframe for an appointment allocation is dated from when the referral is accepted and entered on the waitlist at the hospital site. If there is missing information in the referral, the referral will be sent back to the GP to obtain the required information. Once this information is received it will be passed onto the hospital site for triaging and waitlisting.

Can my patient still be referred to a public outpatient specialist without going through the CRS?

Yes - some specialities are not suitable for referral through the CRS. Additionally, it is expected that there will be special circumstances in which direct referrals to specific hospitals will still be required. For more information see pg. 9 here.

If a referral is not suitable to go through the CRS, please refer to the HealthPathways referral guidelines for information on alternative referral pathways.

How will I know if my patient has been allocated an appointment once I have sent their referral into the CRS?

The CRS allocates referrals to hospital sites; however, the CRS does not allocate appointments. Once the hospital accepts the referral, both you and your patient will receive a notification on which hospital has accepted the referral. You will receive the notification in the same method you sent the referral in by (i.e. secure messaging, fax or post). Your patient will receive the notification via an SMS message. If the patient does not have a mobile number, a letter will be posted instead.

Allocation of appointments remains the responsibility of the hospital sites. For information about your patient’s appointment, including the estimated wait time for an appointment, please contact the hospital site noted in the referral acceptance notification directly.

What happens if my patient cannot get to the hospital allocated to them for their appointment?

The CRS allocates referrals to the most appropriate hospital for each patient based on location, speciality and level of health service required. Allocation of appointments remains the responsibility of the hospital sites. Under special circumstances if your patient is unable to attend the appointment at the allocated hospital, you or your patient will need to contact the hospital directly to advise. Alternatively, the hospital may be able to organise patient transport to the hospital.

What is the difference between an urgent and an immediate referral?

If a patient needs to be seen by a specialist within 7 days this is considered an immediate referral. The CRS does not accept referrals requiring immediate review. Immediate referrals require the referrer to contact the senior clinician or clinic staff for the relevant specialty at the nearest tertiary hospital by telephone to arrange an appropriately timed presentation.

An urgent referral is accepted by the CRS. Once received by the CRS, an urgent referral will be processed within one business day.

Does a hospital have to accept a referral from the CRS?

Hospitals have provided service capability information to the CRS to ensure referrals are allocated to the most appropriate outpatient service. If the hospital does not offer the required level of care for the patient, or does not offer the required service, the referral will be returned to the CRS with accompanying information to ensure the referral is allocated to an appropriate hospital and the CRS service capability database can be updated.

Are referrals from the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) accepted by CRS?

Referrals from rural GPs, hospital specialists and medical officers in WACHS for doctor-led public metropolitan outpatient services are accepted by the CRS. Referrals for select public regional outpatient services are also in scope for CRS.  For further information on the doctor-led specialties and regional services currently in scope for the CRS, please refer to The Central Referral Service Scope (PDF 177KB).

How long does CRS take to process a referral?

Once a referral has been received by the CRS, with all mandatory information provided:

  • urgent referrals are processed within one business day; and
  • routine referrals are processed within three business days.

Who should I contact for information about my outpatient appointment?

Once the CRS has processed your referral, further information on your outpatient appointment can be obtained from the allocated hospital site. Please contact the hospital site noted in the referral acceptance notification directly.

Can a patient be seen at a hospital that is not within their catchment area? 

Patients may receive outpatient care at a hospital that is not within their catchment area. This may occur for a variety of reasons including the patient’s need for a state-wide service, clinical need and previous or future episodes of care.  

The CRS will allocate the referral to the most appropriate hospital. While it is preferable for a patient to be seen at the hospital that corresponds to the patient’s catchment area, there may be circumstances that require the patient to be seen elsewhere. This decision will be made by the CRS in consultation with relevant hospital site staff.  

Does CRS accept named referrals?

No - the CRS does not accept named referrals. However, there are special circumstances in which a referral may require the name of a specialist on the referral for billing purposes. The CRS will contact the referrer to provide further information if:

  • the name of the preferred specialist is required but was not included within the referral form; or
  • a patient has been referred to a named specialist that is outside of the patient’s catchment area.

Are referrers required to follow up on a referral sent to the CRS?

No - after a referrer receives a notification to confirm that the referral has been received and the hospital has accepted it, the hospital will triage the referral and allocate an appointment. The patient will then be notified by the hospital of their appointment time. Once the referrer receives advice on the hospital that has accepted the referral, all communication should be directed to that site.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Central Referral Service and Troubleshooting.

For any additional enquiries, please email the Central Referral Service at:

Last reviewed: 24-07-2023
Produced by

System Clinical Support and Innovation Unit