Support for GPs during the COVID-19 pandemic


Addendum - Rural Procedural Grants Program

Updated: December: 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department has issued a number of temporary arrangements for the Rural Procedural Grants Program to provide additional flexibility and support to rural procedural GPs so that they can continue to access subsidised CPD activities during the period of social restriction. These arrangements will be available until 31 December 2021.

Support for GPs during the COVID-19 pandemic

The revised arrangements in response to COVID-19 are as follows:

  1. Allow current RPGP participants to claim for a limited number of procedural/emergency medicine CPD activities delivered online, at a rate of $1,000 per day. Courses must be approved by the GP Colleges as CPD activities and include an interactive component and/or assessment. All other eligibility criteria still apply.
  2. Payment of claims for online CPD activities can be made to the relevant GP College from 1 July 2020. These claims can be for eligible online CPD undertaken by eligible GPs from the commencement of movement restrictions due to COVID-19.
  3. As of 1 July 2020 GPs who are registered in the Emergency Medicine component can claim an additional 3 days of emergency mental health CPD per financial year. Online training in emergency mental health will be eligible for a $1,000 per day grant up to $3,000 and is not payable for activities prior to 1 July 2020.

RPGP Component

Amount claimable

Period of COVID-19 restriction

After the cessation of COVID-19 restrictions

Component 1 – Procedural GPs Practising in Surgery, Anaesthetics and/or Obstetrics

This component is designed to assist eligible GPs with the cost of attending CPD activities to maintain and/or enhance their procedural skills in surgery, anaesthetics and/or obstetrics.

A grant of $2,000 per day for a maximum of 10 days per financial year is available. GPs are eligible to access the payment multiple times per financial year up to this maximum.

CPD activities delivered online will be eligible between Jul 2020 and 31 December 2021 at $1,000 per day, for a maximum of 10 days.

Online courses should have a minimum of four hours of course time delivery to count as a day.

Colleges to approve all online CPD activities.

From 1 January 2021 new Guidelines and eligibility changes come into effect, limiting access to VR GPs and those practising in MM3-7.

Online training is no longer eligible.

Grant of $2,000 per day applies during this period to activities meeting the eligibility criteria in 2021 guidelines.

Participants can claim up to a total of $20,000 per financial year.

Component 2 – GPs Practising Emergency Medicine

This component is designed to assist eligible GPs with the cost of attending CPD activities to maintain and/or enhance their emergency medicine skills.

Emergency Medicine

A grant of $2,000 per day for a maximum of 3 days per financial year is available. GPs are eligible to access the payment multiple times per financial year up to this maximum.

CPD activities delivered online will be eligible between Jul 2020 and 31 December 2021 at $1,000 per day, for a maximum of 3 days.

Online courses should have a minimum of four hours of course time delivery to count as a day.

Colleges to approve all online CPD activities.

From 1 January 2021 new Guidelines and eligibility changes come into effect, limiting access to VR GPs and those practising in MM3-7.

Online training is no longer eligible.

Grant of $2,000 per day applies during this period to activities meeting the eligibility criteria in updated program guidelines.

Participants can claim up to a total of $6,000 per financial year.

 

Emergency Mental Health Services

A grant of $2,000 per day for an additional 3 days per financial year to support CPD in emergency mental health, if the GP who is registered in the Emergency Medicine component and is also responsible for providing care in respect of emergency mental health services/crisis intervention in patients presenting with acute mental health issues.

Emergency Mental Health grant is available from 1 July 2020 – Maximum $6,000.

CPD activities delivered online will be eligible between Jul2020 and 31 December 2021 at $1,000 per day, for a maximum of 3 days.

Online courses should have a minimum of four hours of course time delivery to count as a day.

Colleges to approve all online CPD activities.

From 1 January 2021 new Guidelines and eligibility changes come into effect, limiting access to VR GPs and those practising in MM3-7.

Online training is no longer eligible.

Grant of $2,000 per day applies during this period to activities meeting the eligibility criteria in updated program guidelines.

Participants can claim up to $6,000 per financial year, totalling $12,000 for Component 2.

 

Frequently Asked Questions for participants of the Rural Procedural Grants Program during the COVID-19 pandemic


While rural procedural GPs are still able to register for and claim under the RPGP, we recognise that due to the social distancing and movement restrictions that have been put in place to respond to COVID-19, rural procedural GPs may not be able to access CPD activities that meet the eligibility requirements to receive grant support under the RPGP. In particular, it may be difficult to access training with the requisite level of face-to-face contact.

The government is addressing this by providing some added flexibility to the types of CPD activities that are eligible for the RPGP. Until 31 December 2021, certain CPD activities that are delivered online are eligible for grant support under the RPGP. These flexibilities are outlined in a COVID-19 addendum to the RPGP guidelines.


Until 31 December 2021, a temporary arrangement will be in place where a partial grant payment of $1,000 per day will be paid for online CPD activities that have been deemed eligible by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) or Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). Courses must include an interactive component and/or assessment and meet all other course eligibility requirements of the RPGP.


The 2017 Nous Review identified mental health as a key health need among rural communities, with GPs working in emergency medicine often the front line for dealing with rural patients suffering from mental health problems and substance abuse. This reform provides capacity for GPs working in emergency medicine to access additional grant payments for building and maintaining their skills in mental health.

As of 1 July 2020 GPs working in emergency medicine can claim 3 days of grant support for CPD activities in emergency mental health per financial year, at a rate of $2,000 per day. This is in addition to the 3 days already available for emergency medicine. 

This is available to emergency medicine GPs who are responsible for providing care in respect of emergency mental health services and in crisis intervention for patients presenting with acute mental health issues. Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria outlined in the program guidelines.

In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, the following flexibility also applies to this new component until 31 December 2021:

  • Eligible GPs can claim grant support of $1,000 a day for online CPD activities relating to emergency mental health, undertaken after July 1 2020, up to a maximum of $3,000. Activities must be deemed eligible by the RACGP and/or ACRRM and must include an interactive component and/or assessment.


During the current COVID-19 restrictions that prevent GPs attending face-to-face CPD activities or where the activities have been revised to remove a face-to-face component of the activity, online training may be accepted as an eligible CPD activity and support payments can be paid to participants. 

A partial grant payment of $1,000 per day will be paid for CPD activities delivered online. Courses must be approved by the colleges and include an interactive component and/or assessment. Other eligibility criteria outlined in the RPGP program guidelines will still apply. Until 31 December 2021 participants will be able to claim up to the following grant thresholds for the online component:

  • Procedural component – $10,000
  • Emergency medicine – $3,000
  • Emergency mental health – $3,000 (from 1 July 2020)

Participants are still able to claim up to the maximum yearly threshold ($20,000 for procedural GPs/$6,000 for emergency medicine GPs) that applies under the RPGP with a mix of online and face-to-face activities. The thresholds for online training provide capacity for eligible GPs to seek grant support for face-to-face activities once COVID -19 restrictions have been lifted.

This is a time limited arrangement which will cease on 31 December 2021 unless otherwise advised by the Department of Health. 


Until 31 December 2021, video-conference and other types of online training such as interactive webinars will also be eligible for RPGP grant support, however please talk to your college to determine if the activity you are interested in is eligible. All other CPD eligibility requirements outlined in the program guidelines must be met.


Procedural GPs practising in surgery, anaesthetics and/or obstetrics can claim up to a total of $20,000 for the financial year 2020-21 which may be a combination of online CPD (eligible until 31 December 2021) and standard RPGP-eligible activities requiring a face-to-face component. 

  • Online CPD activities are limited to a maximum of 10 days at the rate of $1,000 per day within the total annual cap of $20,000 per year.


GPs practising emergency medicine can claim up to a total of $6,000 for the financial year 2020 - 21 which may be a combination of online CPD (eligible until 31 December 2021) and standard RPGP-eligible activities requiring a face-to-face component. 

  • Online CPD activities are limited to a maximum of 3 days at the rate of $1,000 per day within the total annual cap of $6,000 per year.

From 1 July 2020, emergency medicine GPs who are responsible for providing care in respect of emergency mental health services can claim an additional $6,000 in 2020-21 for CPD in emergency mental health. This can be a combination of online CPD (eligible until 31 December 2021) and standard RPGP-eligible activities requiring a face-to-face component.


GPs practising emergency medicine and who are responsible for providing emergency mental health services or crisis intervention, will be eligible to claim grants for attending eligible CPD activities in emergency mental health.


The emergency mental health provision is considered as:

Acute inpatient mental health services provide voluntary and in-voluntary short-term in-patient management and treatment during an acute phase of mental illness, until the person has recovered enough to be treated effectively and safely in the community. These services are located within acute general hospitals.

Mental health centres often have emergency walk-in services or a mobile crisis unit with clinical staff able make an on-site evaluation of a person’s condition. The purpose of both is to deescalate, stabilize the individual and determine the next steps.

The priority of crisis intervention and counselling is to hasten the process of and achieve stabilization. Crisis interventions must be applied at the spur of the moment and in a variety of settings, as trauma can arise instantaneously.

Eligible training options could include:

  • The assessment and management of the aggressive patient including psychiatric assessment and care
  • Differential diagnosis of mental health
  • Drug-induced and medical issues
  • Sedation and post-sedation care
  • Appropriate disposition of patients who display aggressive behaviour and those with mental health disorders
  • Include the implications and summary of the new Mental Health Act.
  • Rapid Treatment of Agitation
  • Restraint and Seclusion Use
  • Evaluation of Medical Comorbidities
  • Implementation of Observation Units
  • Active Treatment for Substance Intoxication or Withdrawal
  • Improved Coordination and Communication around Disposition


If you are an eligible participant, who claimed for online CPD at a rate of $1000 per day, you may be able to rebalance your available funds when returning to face-to-face training ($2000 per day) within the 2020-21 financial year. This applies if you have insufficient grants remaining to cover a full day of eligible CPD up to the maximum amounts for each component below:

  • Emergency medicine - $6,000
  • Emergency mental health - $6,000

For example, if you have expended $3,000 undertaking 3 days of online emergency mental health CPD, and you wish to undertake a further 2 days of face-to-face CPD, you may be permitted to utilise $1,000 of your allowance under the emergency medicine allocation to support this. It is best to talk to your GP College to ensure funds are rebalanced appropriately. These assessments will be made on a case by case basis. 

Due to the number of days available for procedural skills training, it is not expected that this will be an issue when returning to procedural skills training.


No, you will not be disadvantaged if you claim during the COVID-19 restrictions for CPD that is delivered online. During 2020-21, the annual allowances for each GP will be calculated on the maximum dollar value of grant support available ($20,000/$6,000), rather than setting a limit on the number of days of training that can be claimed. This means that if a procedural GP claimed for 10 days of online CPD (at $1,000 a day) he/she would still be eligible to undertake a further 5 days of face-to-face CPD at the standard rate of $2,000 a day. 


No, existing participants do not need to re-enrol after the changes come into effect. You can change the College that you are enrolled with for the RPGP, however you can only be registered with one College at a time.


The Government recognises that locums play an important role in delivering continuity of healthcare in rural and remote communities. Locums who meet the RPGP eligibility requirements and deliver 28 days of locum services per year in rural and remote communities are eligible to access grant support for CPD activities delivered online.


At this stage the additional flexibilities outlined in the COVID-19 addendum will be in place until 31 December 2021. If required, the Department of Health will consider extending these provisions if current social distancing and movement restrictions continue to impact on participants’ capacity to access face-to-face CPD. 


The utilisation of HPOS for the RPGP will cease from 1 July 2020. If you accessed your statements in the past electronically, you will be able to continue to access HPOS for this information as payment advices sent to the HPOS mail centre will remain and still be available to you. If you have been receiving this information via traditional postage, a request will need to be made to Services Australia to obtain this information and a cost may be incurred for this service. 

At the cessation of Services Australia’s processing of payments from 1 July 2020, the Colleges and the Department of Health will have limited access to historical information. From 1 July 2020 the Colleges will be responsible for processing payments as well as providing payment advice to eligible participants. 

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