Caring for yourself
During events such as the current coronavirus situation, additional pressure may be placed on GPs and practice staff as frontline workers through increased patient attendance to the practice, responding to fear and anxiety amidst the community and staying up to date as the situation evolves.
It is important during such times that GPs and practice staff take time to care for themselves and take the opportunity to debrief with colleagues. If you require additional support, services are available, specifically developed for doctors.
The Essential Network (TEN) for frontline workers
This new online e-mental health hub
, developed by the Black Dog Institute, connects frontline healthcare workers with services to cope with the stress of the ongoing pandemic.
You can also access support via the DRS4DRS website and state/territory based helplines. DRS4DRS is an independent program providing confidential support and resources to doctors and medical students across Australia, by doctors. Confidential phone advice is available 24/7 for any doctor or medical student in Australia via each state/territory helpline and referral service.
RACGP GP Support Program
Should you need support, don't hesitate to contact the RACGP GP Support Program. This is a free and confidential psychological support service available to all members, delivered by LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell. Access the service by calling 1300 361 008 (24 hours/7 days).
Immediate 24/7 supports
Beyond Blue Support Service - 1300 22 4636
Lifeline Crisis Support - 13 11 14
Providing mental health and wellbeing support to your patients
GPs play a critical role in the ongoing mental health and wellness of their patients.
The General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC) has collated important information to help you support and care for the mental health and wellbeing of your patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New MBS items for additional psychological therapy sessions
Thirty-six new temporary mental health treatment Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items have been introduced, which provide 10 additional Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people affected by COVID-19.
The new items are available under the ‘Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS’ initiative and will apply from 7 August 2020 to 31 March 2021. The additional sessions will allow eligible patients to continue to receive mental healthcare from their GP, psychologist or other eligible allied health worker.
The 10 additional sessions are available to:
patients in areas with public health orders that restrict movement within the state or territory at any time from 1 July 2020 to 31 March 2021 (eg lockdown or stay-at-home orders)
patients required to self-isolate or quarantine under public health orders for at least 14 days.
Find more information on the RACGP website, including descriptors and rebates for the six new items that support mental healthcare provided by GPs.
Completing Mental Health Skills Training (MHST)
Accredited MHST activities provide GPs with the skills and knowledge to assess, treat, plan and review mental health issues commonly presenting in general practice. Upon successful completion of MHST, GPs should be able to develop and review a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP).
GPs can complete MHST by completing one of the following pathways:
- MHST primary pathway, or;
- MHST modular pathway.
The MHST primary pathway
is a six-hour (at minimum) activity that can be completed online or face-to-face. It is designed for general practice registrars and other medical practitioners entering Australian general practice.
To satisfy the requirements of the MHST modular pathway
, GPs must complete one Core Module (usually three hours) and one Clinical Enhancement Module (usually four hours). The MHST modular pathway is designed for more experienced GPs who assess, treat and manage complex mental health issues in their practices.
For additional information on the specific requirements for MHST pathways, download the Mental health training standards 2020–22: A guide for GPs
View accredited MHST (primary pathway) courses
View accredited MHST (modular pathway) courses
Once both these activities are completed, please contact the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC) on 03 8699 0556 to ensure your Provider number is on file. This will enable the report of your completion to Medicare. Medicare advise four to six weeks processing time. Completion of these activities will make you eligible to access the higher rebate numbers 2715 and 2715 (and equivalent non-VR and telehealth numbers) for the preparation of a Mental Health Treatment Plan.
Completing Focussed Psychological Strategies Skills Training (FSS ST)
Completing an accredited FPS ST course and registering with Medicare as a GP provider of FPS, allows GPs to deliver evidence-based psychological interventions to their communities and important where shortages or lack of access to psychologists and psychiatrists exist, particularly in rural and remote settings.
- Complete an accredited MHST course
- Complete an accredited FPS ST course
- Complete application to register as a GP provider of FPS with Medicare Australia and attach certificate of completion to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The GPMHSC Secretariat will forward your application to Medicare Australia. Medicare will confirm your eligibility to access MBS items 2721–2727 (or non-VR equivalent; 283–287). Please note: you cannot claim against these item numbers until you receive this letter.