Definitions Frequently Asked Questions Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions - Elective Surgery

Show / Hide What is an elective surgery waiting list?

In Victorian public hospitals, the elective surgery waiting list is a list of patients registered by a public hospital to receive elective surgery. The elective surgery waiting list is used by health services to manage patients requiring elective surgery. Elective surgery is surgery, which in the opinion of the treating physician, can be delayed for more than 24 hours.

Each health service has its own elective surgery waiting list categorising patients by procedure and surgeon. Information contained on the waiting list includes:

  • when the patient was placed on the list,
  • the required treatment or procedure,
  • the patient's contact details,
  • the patient’s General Practitioner contact details.

Patients who need emergency treatment will not be placed on an elective surgery list.

Show / Hide What are elective surgery urgency categories?

On the elective surgery waiting list, patients are categorised into one of three clinical urgency categories depending on their clinical condition. The purpose of categorising elective surgery by levels of priority is to manage patient access equitably, so that priority is given to those who are assessed as having the greatest clinical need.

A medical practitioner will assign you an urgency category at the time your name is placed on a public hospital elective surgery list. Clinical urgency categories allow hospitals and clinicians to schedule surgery to ensure that patients with the greatest need are treated first.

Three urgency categories are used in Victoria

Category 1

Admission within 30 days is desirable for a condition that has the potential to deteriorate quickly to the point that it might become an emergency.

Category 2

Admission within 90 days is desirable due to the clinical condition of the patient.

Category 3

Admission within 365 days is desirable due to the clinical condition of the patient.

Show / Hide For which specialties is data reported on this website?

Most elective surgery in Victoria is categorised under ten specialities. The times for treatment for these ten specialties and their most common procedures are available on this website.

Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgery

  • Septoplasty - surgical treatment of the wall between the nostrils,
  • Myringotomy - a surgical incision of the eardrum,
  • Tonsillectomy - surgical removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids.
  • All other ENT surgery.

General Surgery - includes abdominal, breast, endocrine, vein, trauma and minimally invasive surgery.

  • Cholecystectomy - removal of gall bladder,
  • Inguinal hernia repair - repair of hernia in the groin,
  • Surgical repair of other hernias,
  • Vasectomy - male sterilisation,
  • Procedures for the treatment of haemorrhoids,
  • All other general surgery.

Orthopaedic Surgery - surgery of the bones, joints, tendons and muscles

  • Hip replacement surgery,
  • Knee replacement surgery,
  • Arthroscopy of the knee,
  • Surgical removal of bunions and other toe deformities,
  • Shoulder and elbow procedures,
  • Removal of internal fixation device,
  • All other orthopaedic surgery.

Urology - surgery involving the kidneys and bladder

  • Prostatectomy - surgical removal of the prostate gland,
  • Transurethral resection - Surgical removal of abnormal tissue from the bladder,
  • Cystoscopy - a diagnostic procedure to look inside the urethra and bladder,
  • All other urology.

Ophthalmic Surgery - surgery of the eye

  • Repair of cataract,
  • All other opthalmic surgery.

Vascular Surgery - surgery of the veins

  • Varicose veins a surgical procedure to remove or occlude varicose veins (under certain circumstances),
  • All other vascular surgery.

Neurosurgery - surgery of the brain, spinal cord and nervous system

  • Release of carpal tunnel - a surgical procedure to relieve pressure on the nerves in the wrist,
  • All other neurosurgery.

Gynaecology - surgery of the female reproductive organs

  • Laparoscopy - minimally invasive surgery of the female reproductive organs,
  • Hysterectomy - surgical removal of the uterus,
  • Anterior posterior vaginal repair - surgical repair of the wall of the vagina between either the bowel or bladder,
  • Dilation of cervix, curettage of uterus,
  • Procedures on fallopian tubes,
  • All other gynaecology.

Plastic Surgery

  • Excision of skin lesion or subcutaneous tissue,
  • All other Plastic Surgery.

Cardiothoracic Surgery

  • All Cardiothoracic Surgery.

You should contact your medical practitioner if your medical speciality or procedure is not listed.

Show / Hide What is a hospital initiated postponement?

Sometimes hospitals need to postpone elective surgery. This is because demand for emergency services is unpredictable and patients who attend hospitals with life threatening illnesses take priority over patients needing elective surgery.

Hospitals understand that postponement of elective surgery is a significant issue for patients and will endeavour to ensure that postponements are kept to a minimum and that patients are given support and assistance if their surgery is postponed.

Show / Hide What is the definition of time to treatment used on this website?

Time to treatment is based upon the time taken for other patients to have similar surgery. The time given is the median, that is, the point at which half the patients had been treated and half had not. This website will provide you with the time taken for patients to have similar surgery over the 12 month period.

For example:

A time of three weeks for a particular procedure means that, in the past 12 months, half of all the patients receiving surgery for that procedure were treated within three weeks.

The website cannot tell you precisely when you will be treated.  Only times for Category 2 patients and Category 3 patients are used for calculations on this website. Category 1 (or urgent) patients are all treated within the clinically agreed 30 days.

Show / Hide How do I get on a waiting list?

If you require elective surgery, and will be having it in a public hospital, your local doctor or General Practitioner (GP) will make a referral to see a surgeon in either a specialist clinic of a public health service or his/her private rooms.

Once you are seen, and the surgeon has determined that surgery is required; your surgeon will provide you with information about your procedure, its risks and seek your consent to carry out the procedure. This information will be recorded on an elective surgery waiting list referral form which will be forwarded to the waiting list booking office at the relevant public hospital within 3 working days. You will then be placed on the elective surgery waiting list for the procedure you have consented to.

Show / Hide When is it likely I will have my surgery?

The time taken for you to have your elective surgery is the number of days from when your name is placed on the hospital’s elective surgery waiting list to the day when you are admitted for treatment. The time to treatment on this website does not include the time taken between a referral by a GP and assessment by a medical specialist at an outpatient clinic. The specialist will be able to tell you how long this will take.

The time taken to have your surgery will be affected by:

  • Your urgency category relative to other patients,
  • Your urgency within that category. This will be determined by a medical practitioner who will consider both your needs as well as the needs of others who require similar surgery,
  • The availability of appropriately trained medical, nursing and support staff for the procedure you require,
  • Your availability for surgery,
  • Changing demand for hospital services, particularly unplanned emergencies and increased admissions that occur over the winter months.

Victoria has recently introduced a ‘first on, first off’ policy which requires health services to treat patients in turn wherever possible. This policy aims to further promote equitable access to elective surgery for patients.

Show / Hide Can I be referred to the hospital of my choice?

If you wish to be referred to a particular hospital, you can discuss this with your local doctor or general practitioner (GP). Your GP may make the referral as requested or may offer other options to meet your needs. If you are already on a waiting list at a hospital, you can be transferred to another hospital's waiting list.

Show / Hide Can I transfer to another hospital to have my surgery done more quickly?

Yes, depending on the procedure you are having and whether another hospital has capacity to perform that procedure.

The Elective Surgery Access Service (ESAS) assists long waiting semi-urgent (Category 2) and non-urgent (Category 3) elective surgery patients to receive more rapid treatment by arranging surgery at another public hospital with capacity. Each hospital has an Elective Surgery Access Coordinator. You can contact the co-ordinator by calling your hospital or the elective surgery list department of the hospital at which you are listed.

Alternatively you may be contacted by an ESAS coordinator if they feel there is capacity at another hospital to get your surgery done earlier. Participation in the ESAS program is voluntary. You do not have to accept the offer of treatment provided by this service.

Show / Hide I do not think I need surgery anymore, what should I do?

You may no longer require surgery for a number of reasons:

  • Your condition has resolved itself without surgery,
  • You no longer feel that you want surgery,
  • You may have found alternative means of treating your condition,
  • You may have had your treatment elsewhere.

If you no longer want or need surgery, please contact the hospital where you were listed for surgery.

Show / Hide When do I need to be ready for surgery?

You need to be ready for surgery from the time that your name is placed on an elective surgery waiting list. The elective surgery lists are reviewed regularly to make sure that all patients will be able to accept a booking date for surgery as soon as they are contacted. You may not be ready for your elective surgery for a number of reasons. You may choose to delay your surgery for work or social reasons or may require additional medical treatment before you can have your surgery.

If you have advised your hospital that you are not ready to have your surgery, your position on the waiting list will be held until you are ready for surgery. You must advise the hospital when you are again ready for surgery. If you are unsure of your status on the list, contact your hospital.

Show / Hide I have private health insurance, does that make a difference?

Public hospitals treat both public and private patients. Public hospitals are required to treat patients according to medical urgency. Private insurance or willingness to pay for your surgery will not reduce the time you wait on a public hospital elective surgery list.

You may be asked to choose whether you would like to use your private insurance at a public hospital. Private insurance allows you to choose your doctor but there are some costs involved. You should contact your hospital and private health insurer if you need further information about the costs of using your private insurance at a public hospital.

Show / Hide Where can I find more information on elective surgery?

The Better Health Channel provides a section a surgery which contains useful information on the different types of surgery and what to ask your doctor.

The Statewide Surgical Services Program website contains more information on elective surgery policies and programs in Victoria, as well as a link to a patient brochure called ‘What do I need to know about my elective surgery?’