The Department of Health and Aged Care has released the National COVID-19 Health Management Plan for 2023. The plan sees several changes including implementing the requirement for a referral for PCR testing and scaling back of GP-led respiratory clinics.
Access to PCR Testing
From 1 January 2023 PCR testing is only available by referral by a GP or nurse practitioner, or at a state testing site or GP-led respiratory clinic for priority populations.
The approach to testing is outlined in this explainer from the Department of Health and Aged Care and as per below.
Low risk people are encouraged to stay home when feeling sick. They should take a RAT if they have respiratory and/or other COVID-19 symptoms. If a positive COVID19 result is received, stay home where possible and if you must leave, wear a mask and avoid highrisk settings. Continue to monitor symptoms, and engage early with your primary care provider if symptoms worsen.
Low risk, with close contact to high-risk population
Low-risk people who live or work with people who are high risk, particularly for COVID-19, are encouraged to take a RAT if they have respiratory and/or other COVID-19 symptoms and stay home when feeling sick. If symptoms persist following a negative RAT, these people should get a PCR through a GP or normal referral pathway. People entering high-risk settings will be encouraged to continue to use RATs for screening and diagnosis to prevent further transmission.
People in high-risk populations who are at risk of severe COVID-19 and would benefit from antiviral treatments will be prioritised for PCR testing and engagement with primary care services. If you are at risk of severe COVID-19, you should consult with your primary care provider about your eligibility for antiviral treatments and create a plan to ensure fast access to treatment. Those at higher risk of severe COVID-19 include: older Australians, First Nations people, people with disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people living in remote communities, people with complex underlying health conditions and the immunocompromised.
Exemption to the 12-month ‘Existing relationship’ telehealth rule for COVID-positive patients
Patients who test positive to COVID-19 on a PCR test or rapid antigen test (RAT) within the last seven days can access general telehealth consultations from any GP under normal MBS telehealth eligibility requirements. This means they do not need to have seen the GP providing the service or another health professional at the same practice in-person at least once in the last 12 months to access telehealth.
The Department of Health and Aged Care have confirmed that this exemption will be temporarily extended until 31 December 2023.
Exemption to the 12-month ‘Existing relationship’ telehealth rule for high risk people who suspect they have COVID-19 and who meet the PBS criteria for COVID-19 antiviral therapy
A temporary exemption from the established clinical relationship requirement for telehealth consultations is now place until 31 Marc 2023, for high risk people who suspect they have COVID-19 and who meet the PBS criteria for COVID-19 antiviral therapy to seek a request to a private pathologist for PCR test in relation to COVID-19.
The rule is defined as having had at least one face-to-face consultation with the GP, or another practitioner at the same practice, within the 12 months preceding the telehealth service.
Under these new arrangements, any GP or other medical practitioner (OMP) can provide a telehealth consultation to patients who meet all of the following criteria:
- Do not meet the established clinical relationship requirement
- Are eligible for PBS criteria for antiviral therapy
- Are experiencing acute respiratory symptoms
- Are seeking a request to a private pathologist for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing in relation to COVID-19
These changes will enable high-risk patients to continue to have timely access to PCR testing over the summer period.
GPs claiming the exemption are expected to record their justification in the context of their requirement to keep adequate and contemporaneous patient records.
Visit MBS Online for more information.
Change to notification advice for COVID antiviral treatment pathways in QLD, NSW, VIC and SA
Since mid-2022, Healthdirect Australia has assisted COVID-positive people in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia connect to their GP for antiviral treatment assessment and prescription.
Healthdirect notifies the consumer via text message to call their GP if they may be potentially eligible for antivirals, and to date has also notified their GP or GP-led respiratory clinic (GPRC) by secure messaging of the patient status. This secure message to GPs and GPRCs was followed up with a phone call.
From 1 January 2023, the follow up call will no longer be made. The secure messaging of the patient status will continue.
Changes to GP-led respiratory clinics
While there has already been a scaling back of GP-led respiratory clinics (GPRCs) 78 GPRCs will continue to be funded until 28 February 2023. From March 2023 the GPRC model will move to a panel model for activation during emergencies.
The Department of Health and Aged Care (the Department) has advised that existing accredited general practices will be selected for the GPRC Panel (GPRCP) through an approach to market that has now been listed on the AusTender website. The below information has been provided by the Department in relation to the new GPRCP and lodging an application via AusTender.
Overview of the GPRCP
- To ensure sufficient surge capacity is in place to respond to subsequent COVID-19 waves or any other future respiratory health emergencies, the GPRCP will be implemented from March 2023.
- Under this new panel arrangement, up to 150 existing, accredited primary care practices, which may include former GPRCs if they meet the standard criteria to participate, would be held in reserve to be activated as needed in response to the emergence of another COVID-19 wave or other major heath respiratory emergency.
- During periods of activation, GPRCP participants will be provided access to a new MBS Item (bulk-billed) for each respiratory consultation. Upon activation, they will also be eligible to claim a Practice Incentive Payment (PIP) equivalent to their PIP QI payment per 3-month period.
- Participating clinics will be able to provide their usual services through standard MBS Items while activated, they will not be constrained to only providing services under the GPRCP.
Release of Request for Tender on AusTender
Thursday, 5 January 2023
Enquiry Cut-Off (including extension request) Date
2pm AEDT, Thursday, 19 January 2023
Closing Time (for responses)
2pm AEDT, Thursday, 9 February 2023
Commencement of Panel
1 March 2023
Register on AusTender at New User Registration: AusTender (tenders.gov.au) - AusTender is the Australian Government’s procurement information system.
Any queries or requests for technical or operational support can be directed to:
The AusTender Help Desk is available between 9am and 5pm AEDT, Monday to Friday (excluding ACT and national public holidays).
Lodging a response
- Once registered, navigate to Current ATM View - Health/23/325151: AusTender (tenders.gov.au) – here you will find a link to the ‘ATM Documents’ and ‘Lodgement Page’
- Tenders must be lodged electronically via AusTender before the Closing Time (AEDT)
- If Tenderers need to lodge material that cannot be submitted via AusTender, Tenderers should contact the Contact Officer at email GPRC@health.gov.au prior to Closing Time to make arrangements for its submission.
- Where a Tender lodgement consists of multiple uploads, due to the number and/or size of the files, Tenderers must ensure that transmission of all files is completed and receipted before the Closing Time and clause 9.4 will only apply to the final upload.
- The Department will accept Tenders lodged in Microsoft Word 2003 (or above), or PDF format
- The Tender file name/s should:
- incorporate the Tenderer’s company name; and
- reflect the various parts of the bid they represent, where the Tender comprises multiple files.
- Tender response files should not exceed a combined file size of 5 megabytes per upload.
- Tenders must be completely self-contained. No hyperlinked or other material may be incorporated by reference.
For further information or assistance, please email the team at GPRC@health.gov.au