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FSP consideration of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances guide


Introduction

This guide provides information for registrars on the Fellowship Support Program (FSP) who experience extenuating and unforeseen circumstances that affect their participation in their training program. It defines and gives examples of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances, describes how to apply for consideration of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances, and outlines the support the RACGP provides.
 

Definition

Extenuating and unforeseen circumstances are defined by the RACGP as circumstances that are outside your control, can reasonably be considered to have been unforeseen, and can be shown to have a direct and significant impact on you. Extenuating and unforeseen circumstances may be experienced either by you or a significant family relation.

Extenuating and unforeseen circumstances may prevent you from:

  • completing the entry requirements to the program
  • participating in the program (eg being able to work in general practice at least 14.5 hours per week over at least two days)
  • meeting an assessment submission deadline or engaging in a clinical assessment
     

What you can apply for

Depending on your circumstances, you can apply for either:

  • an extension of your program time (for more information please see the Extension of Program Time Policy)
  • a change in practice (for change in practice location to MM1 location you will need to apply for consideration of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances)

Note that you can’t apply for an extension once your exam candidacy period has commenced. For information about suspending your exam candidacy in extenuating and unforeseen circumstances, please refer to the FSP Registrar Handbook or Fellowship Exams Policy.
 

Examples of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances

Category Circumstance
Medical
  • life-threatening illness
  • serious accident
  • hospitalisation
  • illness that could become life-threatening if not treated correctly
  • diagnosed mental health condition
  • unforeseen pregnancy complications
  • a chronic illness or disabling condition that, if not treated correctly, will prevent the person from performing their normal occupation
  • unable to receive necessary medical care in an MMM 2–7 location (eg radiotherapy treatment or treatment requiring frequent attendance at an MMM 1 medical facility)
  • significant illness of a first degree family member
Acute adverse life circumstances
  • significant personal/family circumstances affecting you
  • attendance at legal proceedings
Employment
  • loss of employment due to factors beyond your control (eg training site closure)
 

Circumstances that won’t be considered extenuating and unforeseen

Category Circumstance
Medical
  • self-certified illness or medical circumstances
  • the evidence of a medical condition either doesn’t relate to the time when the illness or condition occurred, or was documented more than six months before the application was submitted
  • a long-term health condition with no evidence of a sudden worsening
  • a minor illness that would not normally cause a reasonable and responsible employed person to take sick leave
  • an uncomplicated pregnancy or childbirth before the start date of your program
Acute adverse life circumstances
  • bereavement
  • getting married or attending a wedding, festival or other personal event
  • divorce or relationship breakdown
  • financial hardship
  • stress or emotional isolation not associated with a diagnosed mental health condition. If you experience stress while on your training program, we recommend reducing your working hours (but maintain the 14.5-hour minimum) so that you have time for other responsibilities and self-care.
  • geographic isolation in an MMM 2–7 location
  • because of your age, religion, ethnicity or language skills you prefer to be placed in a metropolitan area
  •  you wish to access specific services (eg child care, education for children) in a metropolitan area
  •   circumstances for which appropriate adjustments have already been made by the RACGP
  • circumstances that a reasonable person would view as foreseeable or preventable
Employment
  • dispute with your employer about your working conditions
  • unable to complete your program requirements because you work more than 38 hours per week
 

How to apply for consideration of extenuating and unforeseen circumstances

If you, or a significant family relation, experience extenuating and unforeseen circumstances that have a significant impact on your ability to continue working in your current location or practice, please submit an extenuating and unforeseen circumstances application. We consider applications on a case-by-case basis.

If possible, apply within four calendar weeks of the circumstances arising. Applications received more than six calendar months after the circumstances arose, or with evidence dated more than six calendar months before the application was made, won’t be accepted.

To make an application, follow these three steps:

  1. Gather your supporting evidence and email it to ApprovedPlacement@racgp.org.au. Include the following information in the subject line:

Extenuating and unforeseen circumstances (FSP) – Dr [LAST NAME] – [RACGP ID number]

If you can’t communicate with us

If you’re unable to personally communicate with us, another person may submit an application and communicate with us on your behalf. In this case, evidence must be provided as to why you can’t personally make the application, and if possible, you should provide your consent for the other person to act on your behalf.
 

What evidence to provide

In your application, you’ll need to provide appropriate evidence of the extenuating and unforeseen circumstances and their impact on you.

Any medical evidence you submit must be provided by a health professional (eg a GP or other relevant specialist) who is independent and objective and has no potential Conflict of Interest in your application. The medical practitioner must:

  • be an AHPRA-registered GP or treating specialist directly involved in the diagnosis or treatment of you or your significant family relation
  • not work in your current general practice workplace nor be a prospective employer
  • not be related to you nor have a personal connection or close relationship with you. The types of evidence that you must submit with your application are listed below.

Medical circumstances

In the case of ill health (including mental ill health) affecting either you or a significant family relation, provide the following evidence.

Details of diagnosis

  • Where possible, this should be a recognisable diagnosis using objective criteria. If the issue relates to mental health, the diagnosis should reference a tool, such as the DSM-5.
  • Date of first diagnosis.

Impact of condition on you

  • Length of time a relevant specialist has been providing treatment.
  • Frequency of treatment (eg number of visits to a GP or other relevant specialist in the past month).
  • The reasons why the medical condition or required treatment prevents you from meeting the minimum part-time program requirements in an MMM 2–7 location (eg specialist services, such as radiotherapy are required but not available locally).
  • Expected duration of illness/condition.
  • How long you expect to be unable to meet the minimum part-time program requirements.

Note that if treatment is less frequent than once every two months, this will not be considered sufficiently impactful without the presence of other mitigating factors.

If you’re providing care to a significant family relation

Evidence of the level of care provided (eg number of visits to medical services, number of hours spent providing care, forms of care and assistance provided, care arrangements while you are working).
 

If the required medical services are situated in another location

  • A letter of support (or similar) from a GP or other relevant specialist noting that the treatment is:
    • either not available or not suitable in your current location
    • required more than once every two months
    • generally recognised as appropriate for the medical condition.

    Note that if treatment is less frequent than once every two months, it will not be considered sufficiently impactful without the presence of other mitigating factors.

Acute adverse life circumstances

In the case of acute adverse life circumstances, provide evidence such as:

  • Statutory declaration detailing the circumstances and their impact on you.
  • Court summons/subpoena for evidence.
  • Court mandated custody arrangements.

Employment circumstances

In the case of a change in employment circumstances, provide evidence such as:

  • Evidence of mandatory employment relocation (eg for ADF mandatory postings)
  • Statutory declaration detailing the circumstances and their impact on you.
  • Letter from your employer indicating circumstances.
  • Evidence from the Australian Department of Home Affairs or international equivalent detailing the change in circumstances.

Please note that all applications must include the evidence detailed above; incomplete applications will not be considered.
 

Outcome of your application

When you will receive an outcome

We’ll assess your application against the criteria outlined in this guide. We may request additional information. Generally, we’ll let you know the outcome of your application in the following time frames:

  • applications for an extension of program time – outcome is provided within 20 business days after we receive your application
  • applications for transfer – outcome is provided within 12 calendar weeks after we receive your application. This includes the time needed to apply for a new provider number for your new place of employment, as per the Training Transfer Policy.
  • applications for entry into the FSP under extenuating and unforeseen circumstances – you’ll receive the outcome of your extenuating and unforeseen circumstances application and your eligibility application at the same time.

If your application is approved

  • Approved applications are valid for a period of 12 calendar months (unless informed otherwise).
  • The duration of the transfer or extension will be determined based on the severity of the extenuating and unforeseen circumstances, the supporting evidence provided, and the stage of your training program.

If your application is denied

If we determine your application doesn’t meet the criteria for extenuating and unforeseen circumstances, we may offer you alternative options, such as a reduction in working hours (subject to you continuing to meet the minimum part-time program requirements).
 

Support for your wellbeing

The RACGP recognises that doctors experiencing extenuating and unforeseen circumstances may feel distressed and overwhelmed. We encourage you to use the GP Support Program, which is a free service available to all RACGP members.

You can access professional advice through the GP Support Program to support you through personal and work-related issues that can impact on your wellbeing, workplace morale, performance and safety, and psychological health. For more information, refer to the GP Support Program webpage.
 

Glossary

Acute adverse life circumstances

Personal or work circumstances that cause a registrar to be unable to work the Minimum Part-Time Program Requirements of 14.5 hours over two days per week.

Conflict of Interest

A situation in which it is reasonable to conclude that an individual’s or group of individuals’ personal interests directly conflict with the best interests of the GPiT or where individuals’ actions may be influenced by their personal interests rather than education and training outcomes. A Conflict of Interest includes, but is not limited to, when:

  1. close personal friends or family members are involved,
  2. an individual or their close friends or family members may make financial gain or gain some other form of advantage, and
  3. an individual is bound by prior agreements or allegiances to other individuals or agencies that require them to act in the interests of that person or agency or to take a particular position on an issue.
DSM-5

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition

Extenuating and unforeseen circumstances

Circumstances that are outside the registrar’s control and can reasonably be considered to have been unforeseen, and can be shown to have a direct and significant impact on the registrar. The RACGP considers extenuating and unforeseen circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Minimum part-time program requirements

The combined time spent in practice and undertaking out-of-practice education.

  • Time in practice is calculated pro-rata against the definition of full-time general practice experience.
  • Part-time general practice must comprise:
    • a minimum of 14.5 hours in a working week, over a minimum of two days per week
    • a minimum of 10.5 hours in face-to-face, rostered, patient consultation time undertaking general practice activities.
  • Work periods of less than three consecutive hours, or of less than four calendar weeks in any one practice, will not be considered. Out-of-practice education hours may be in addition to time in practice.
Modified Monash Model (MMM) The Modified Monash Model (2019) is a classification system that categorises metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas according to both geographical remoteness and town size. The MMM classification for any given area can be found by using the locator tool on the DoctorConnect website.
Registrar

The medical practitioner enrolled in the Fellowship Support Program (FSP).

Significant family relation

Anyone with whom the registrar has close familial relations. This may include, but is not limited to, a parent, sibling, spouse/partner/de facto/fiancé(e), child, grandparent and community member.

Stress

The expected impact of work/personal events under which the registrar is able to work the minimum part time program requirements of 14.5 hours over two days per week.

 

Related documents

Fellowship Exams Policy
Training Transfer Policy
FSP Registrar Handbook


 

 
Version Date of effect Amended by
1 11 July 2023 Education Policy and Guidance Lead
Amendment details
  • Document developed to support registrars enrolled in the Fellowship Support Program impacted by extenuating and unforeseen circumstances.

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