August 2021

Chair report

Message from the Chair – Assoc Prof Charlotte Hespe

It’s hard to believe we’ve reached August already – and unfortunately lockdown across Greater Sydney continues! Sadly, it looks like this will continue for some time, with some predicting an end in October/November. Let’s hope the formula of ‘stay at home, wear a mask, practise social distancing and get vaccinated (with whatever you can get)’ can prevent even greater numbers of infection and death.

NSW Health is particularly focused on a speedy vaccine rollout, via both targeted distribution of Pfizer supplies (the red hot zones) and increased take-up of AstraZeneca in people aged 18–39.

Although pharmacists have joined us in the AstraZeneca rollout, we as GPs are in the unique position of being best placed to discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination in the context of each person’s health situation. Most significantly, we play a key role in explaining and addressing concerns about the serious but rare adverse reaction to the AstraZeneca vaccine, thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). We can help prevent catastrophic outcomes when TTS does occur by empowering patients with knowledge about symptoms to watch out for and when to seek immediate medical review, including blood investigations (platelet count and D-dimer test). Please make sure everyone gets a handout with this information after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Please also use telehealth wherever possible during any lockdown – in particular, via video, as this can really add value over and above phone calls and assists with diagnosis and management for many conditions without needing face-to-face contact.

Finally, please join us online for this year’s RACGP NSW&ACT Member Meeting on 15 September. Our keynote speaker will be Professor Kay Wilhelm, a psychiatrist passionate about doctors’ wellbeing.

Remember, look after yourselves, your colleagues and your families – essential during this pandemic.

Calendar of events

Calendar of events

Event Date CPD points
Respiratory medicine for primary care Wednesday 25 August 2021
7.30–8.30‌ pm
Two points
COVID-19 vaccination update in NSW Wednesday 1 September 2021
7.30–8.30 pm
Two points
Breast implants, screening and diagnosis of breast cancer Tuesday 7 September 2021
7.30–8.30‌ pm
Two points
Let's talk about finances: Property investments Wednesday 8 September 2021
7.30–9.00‌ pm
Practice THAT! On demand Self-record

Events in the spotlight

2021 RACGP NSW&ACT Faculty Member meeting

We warmly invite you to attend the RACGP NSW&ACT Faculty Member Meeting, to be held online.

As usual, we’ll present the NSW&ACT Faculty Awards, 10- and 20-year pin recipients, and life members.

We won’t have a Charles Bridges-Webb Oration this year. Instead we’ll hear from an inspiring speaker, Prof Kay Wilhelm, who will share interesting insights on workplace wellbeing.

Date: Wednesday 15 September 2021
Time: 7.30 pm (AEST)
Venue: Online (Zoom)
Cost: Free

Register now


Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule changes from 1 August 2021

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) was updated on 1 August 2021. Refer to the FAQs on accessing and using the Online PBS Authorities System. For more information on broader PBS changes, visit the PBS website.

Vaccine-cost donations to UNICEF

The Immunisation Coalition is issuing an urgent plea to Australians to help close the global COVID-19 vaccination gap by making a tax-deductible donation to UNICEF Australia to improve vaccine access in lower-income countries. 

We encourage you to put up a poster in your waiting room or pre/post-vaccine clinic spaces that invite people to make a donation following their vaccination.

Download the A4 poster
Download the A3 poster

State Insurance Regulatory Authority workers compensation: Standardised invoicing requirements

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority requires health practitioners to provide itemised invoices for the services they’ve delivered before payment can be made by the insurer. 

These requirements include identification of the health service provider, which currently includes the medical practitioner’s: 

  • name 
  • Australian Business Number
  • Health Insurance Commission (HIC) number. 

The requirements have recently been expanded to include the medical practitioner’s Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency number.

To prevent delays in payment, you’ll need to include these details on all invoices from 1 September 2021. 

For the full list of information that must be provided on invoices, refer to What invoices need to include

National news

New dates for GP21, online only


GP21 is changing. Due to the recent COVID-19 outbreaks, we’ve rescheduled the conference to Friday to Sunday 19–21‌ November 2021.

Also, to counter the unpredictable nature of pandemic restrictions, GP21 will now be held online only.

Early-bird registrations are available until Thursday 30 September 2021.

For more information and to view the full program visit the GP21 website.

What’s the future of general practice in your community? You decide

Influence, represent, advocate. Shape the future of general practice. Nominate for the 2021 RACGP elections now.

Voting in the RACGP faculty council elections is now open in three contested electorates.

Electorate Faculty 
Northern Sydney representative RACGP NSW&ACT
General member RACGP Western Australia
General member RACGP Victoria

Members eligible to vote should have received their emailed ballot from Big Pulse on Monday 9 August 2021. If you haven’t received your ballot, contact the Returning Officer, Gavin Ryan, at 0403 336 829 or Deputy Returning Officer, Thomas Balakas, at 0405 603 853 or

Vote before midday (AEST) Monday 23 August 2021 to make your voice heard on your faculty council. You can find more information on the RACGP website.

Nominations now open to join RACGP Expert Committees

Nominations are open for eligible RACGP members to join the RACGP Expert Committees (RECs). Eligible members can also nominate as Chair of an REC.

RACGP Fellows who are financial members as of 1 July 2021 are eligible to apply to join each of the RECs:

The RECs help develop RACGP position statements, submissions, guidelines, and resources and tools to support GPs.

As an REC member, you’ll use your knowledge and experience to shape your college and Australian general practice by providing advice and expertise to the RACGP Board and executive team.

Nominations close at 5.00‌ pm (AEST) on Monday 23 August 2021.

Find out more

Peer support for GPs and GPs in training: Hand-n-hand program

The Hand-n-Hand (Helping Australian & New Zealand Nurses and Doctors) program is looking for GPs willing to help with peer support. The program is currently experiencing high demand from GPs and GPs in training needing support from their peers.

Hand-n-Hand was initially a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing emotional burden that came with it. Today, hundreds of participants and volunteer facilitators are part of a growing peer-support movement across the healthcare profession.

If you want to help by sharing your lived experience and challenges with other GPs and GPs in training, email

NSW Health update*

New prescriber self-audit for treating opioid dependence

GP prescribers of opioid agonist treatment (OAT) can now access an Opioid Treatment Program self-audit package from the NSW Ministry of Health.

The package includes four self-contained modules covering key areas of prescribing for the Opioid Treatment Program:

  • Treatment planning and assessment 
  • Induction and stabilisation 
  • Treatment monitoring and unsupervised dosing  
  • Prescription writing, regulation and other protocols 

Free training courses are available for GPs interested in prescribing OAT. Other resources are available to support clinicians providing treatment in alcohol and other drugs. The Drug and Alcohol Specialist Advisory Service provides free 24-hour support for clinicians.

Impacts of recent COVID restrictions on the Opioid Treatment Program

Opioid treatment prescribers are encouraged to put in place any reasonable measures that support services and patients to avoid the potential for COVID-19 transmission, to stay at home and to reduce congregation at services.

For patients on OAT, these measures may include increased use of telehealth for patient appointments, arranging for dosing at community pharmacies and prescribing an increased number of unsupervised or ‘takeaway’ doses, based on individual clinical risk assessment.

This is an update to information that was provided in a recent letter that advised prescribers to return to standard guidance on prescribing unsupervised doses.

And remember that the COVID-19 FAQ for OTP patients may help reassure patients about their care during COVID-19.

NSW Health Child Wellbeing Unit

Registered medical practitioners and general practice nurses can call the NSW Health Child Wellbeing Unit (CWU) to make a report or seek advice if they have concerns about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child, young person or an unborn child.

Call the CWU on 1300 480 420 between 8.30‌ am to 4.30‌ pm on weekdays or leave a message after hours for a return call the next business day.

Celebrating 10 years of Go4Fun

Go4Fun is a free, evidence-based healthy lifestyle program for children aged 7–13 years who are above a healthy weight and their families. It helps children achieve clinically and statistically significant health outcomes. Since 2011, the program has reached more than 15,000 families.

Aboriginal Go4Fun (a culturally adapted version) and Go4Fun Online (an online version, particularly for those in rural and remote areas) have since been developed to increase access to priority populations.

Start referring your patients today via Best Practice, MedicalDirector, Communicare or online or call 1800 780 900.

Aboriginal COVID-19 vaccination information

People with cancer are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and are at increased risk of more severe infection. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting this group from getting really sick from COVID-19.

With the assistance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and health experts, Cancer Australia has developed:

These FAQs are based on information and evidence currently available in Australia and internationally and will be updated as new information emerges.

Visit recruitGP – the RACGP’s trusted, single source for general practice employment opportunities across urban, remote and rural Australia.

It’s free for RACGP members.

The RACGP does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may result from reliance on, or the use of, any information contained in this newsletter.