Applicability of the RACGP Standards for general practices
The RACGP Standards for general practices (4th edition) have been written by the general practice profession for general practices in Australia. One of the great strengths of general practice is its diversity. If your practice is a general practice – even if it seems to have an unusual or unconventional structure – then these Standards are applicable.
The RACGP defines general practice as the provision of patient centred continuing comprehensive, coordinated primary care to individuals, families and communities. The Standards are wholly relevant to general practices which meet this definition.
Special interest practices
The Standards might also be relevant for health services that do not necessarily see themselves as ‘general practices’ but as ‘special interest practices’ in primary care. Special interest practices may focus on a single clinical area (eg. mental health or skin cancer) or a single treatment modality (eg. acupuncture).
Services providing care to specific populations
The Standards may apply to primary healthcare services that are not organised like an office based private general practice, but which nevertheless provide general practice care to a distinct community (eg. Aboriginal medical services, community health services, or mobile clinics caring for homeless people).
The RACGP has worked extensively with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation sector to develop an interpretive guide on the RACGP Standards.17
Services providing care outside normal opening hours
There are several options for the provision of care outside normal opening hours, or the advertised opening hours of the practice. Some practices use their own GPs to provide care or alternatively use a local cooperative of GPs or a medical deputising service. Where a deputising service is not available practices may have an agreement with a local hospital. Some practices use a combination of all these arrangements.
Except where specifically indicated, all standards, criteria and related indicators are applicable to services providing care outside normal opening hours.
Self assessment against the Standards
The RACGP encourages all services that provide primary healthcare to consider the Standards as a template for quality improvement and risk management. Most standards and related criteria will be relevant and will enable practices to build the fundamentals of quality and safety into their systems.
Primary health services which do not meet the RACGP definition of general practice and are therefore unable to be formally accredited against the Standards are nevertheless able to conduct a self assessment.
If a practice is undertaking a self assessment against the Standards, it may be helpful to discuss the assessment informally with trusted colleagues. A ‘fresh set of eyes’ over practice systems can assist in identifying areas where the practice does really well and areas where the practice needs to improve. Most importantly, peers can provide feedback on quality improvement activities – they can help the practice verify if changes based on practice data have brought about intended outcomes.
Independent accreditation against the Standards
When the RACGP Standards are used as the basis of an accreditation process, practices are expected to meet the Standards at all times, not just on the day of the accreditation survey. This is important for the safe and effective care of patients.
Any formal assessment process against the RACGP Standards needs to be based on common sense and should not seek to penalise or exclude practices on the basis of technicalities.
The only model of third party review supported by the RACGP for the Standards is by two or more surveyors who meet defined selection criteria and where at least one surveyor is a GP.
- The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Interpretive guide of the RACGP Standards for general practices (3rd edition) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services. South Melbourne: The RACGP, 2010.