Guidelines of the Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria
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Guideline 12 - Referrals between veterinary practitioners

This guideline outlines the appropriate standard expected of a registered veterinary practitioner in the course of veterinary practice. It should be read in conjunction with other related guidelines.

Context to Guideline 12: Referrals between veterinary practitioners

A veterinary practitioner exercises professional judgement regarding the wellbeing of an animal by working closely with the animal’s owner and giving due regard to what course of action is in best interest of the animal.

An owner may request that a veterinary practitioner provide a formal referral of their animal to another veterinary practitioner. A veterinary practitioner may initiate a formal referral after giving due consideration to an animal’s clinical management needs.

Where an animal is referred to one or more other veterinary practitioners, open collaboration and clear communication between all parties will achieve the best outcome for the animal.

A referral by a veterinary practitioner to another veterinary practitioner should provide sufficient information to describe the issue of concern and give a comprehensive history of the clinical management, diagnostics and/or treatment undertaken to date.

The referral should be presented in a format that results in all veterinary practitioners having the same understanding of each other’s responsibilities in the animal’s clinical management.

A veterinary practitioner who makes or receives a formal referral does not have a lesser responsibility simply because of the way in which services are delivered. Veterinary services provided through a formal referral can be delivered equally via mobile veterinary facilities or at fixed premises.

A veterinary practitioner, when making a formal referral, may need to consider the owner’s geographical accessibility to the alternative service and recommend an option that accommodates the owner’s location during the period of treatment and follow up.

A veterinary practitioner may proactively enter into ongoing arrangements with other veterinary practitioners that complement their scope of practice and individual knowledge and skills.

Professional conduct under this guideline is demonstrated by the following:
12.1 A veterinary practitioner, practising within their area of technical skills and giving due regard to the clinical history of an animal, considers whether a formal referral of the animal to another veterinary practitioner is in the best interests of the animal. 
12.2 A veterinary practitioner provides an accurate and comprehensive clinical update when making a formal referral of an animal to another veterinary practitioner or when returning the care of a referred animal to the veterinary practitioner who initiated the formal referral. 
12.3 A veterinary practitioner accepting a referred animal informs themselves of an animal’s clinical history and previous treatments or management strategies of the referring veterinary practitioner.  
12.4 A veterinary practitioner accepting a formal referral is responsible for the clinical management of the matter initiating the referral, the care of a referred animal following treatment and communication with the animal’s owner.
A veterinary practitioner considers all factors relevant to the wellbeing of a referred animal in developing their treatment plan, including existing co-morbidities that may not be the cause of a referral, and they communicate these to the owner. 
12.6 A veterinary practitioner discloses to an owner whether the veterinary practitioner receiving a formal referral has been endorsed by the Board as a veterinary specialist.

Related guidelines

Date of publication
In effect from 1 May 2021.

This material is current only at the time of publication and may be changed from time to time. The Board reviews and updates the Guidelines on a continuous basis to reflect changes in the science and knowledge base underpinning contemporary veterinary practice. The Board will take reasonable steps to inform the veterinary profession when such updates are released but it remains the responsibility of the individual veterinary practitioner to ensure that their knowledge and application of these Guidelines to their own practice is current.

While the Board has made every effort to ensure that the material in these Guidelines is correct in law, it shall not be liable to any veterinary practitioner or any other person or entity in relation to any claim, action or proceeding whatsoever (whether in contract, negligence or other tort or in proceedings seeking any other form of legal or equitable remedy or relief) for any inadequacy, error or mistake, or for any deficiency in the whole or any part of this document (including any updates incorporated in the document from time to time). A veterinary practitioner or any other person or entity acting upon the contents of this document acknowledges and accepts that this is the basis upon which the Board has produced these Guidelines and made them available to such person or entity.