December 2020

Chair report

Message from the Chair – Assoc Prof Charlotte Hespe

Wow – what a year we’ve had in 2020. Who would’ve predicted this time last year that we’d have faced bushfires, drought, floods and a coronavirus pandemic – all in the first 3 months of the year. Or that we’d still be facing life during a pandemic as we headed into Christmas and the New Year.

As NSW and the ACT start moving into a world with much more relaxed social-distancing restrictions over this festive period, it’s important that we remain vigilant and maintain high testing rates to keep numbers of community-acquired COVID-19 infections at zero or as close as possible. We all need to be testing patients with even the most mildly suggestive symptoms and give them the strongest advice to self-isolate until they test negative so we can continue to enjoy the benefits of a COVID-free community. Just hearing the numbers of deaths in the US and Europe makes me appreciate how well we’ve done over here in Australia.

As well as testing, contact tracing is one of our most powerful tools to stop the spread of infections, and NSW remains the ‘gold standard’ in tracing methods and results. As GPs, we need to be seen leading the charge in supporting the continuation of these efforts. We need to ensure none of us becomes complacent about the possibility of new infections.

There are a number of good apps around, but I recommend that in your practice – as will be happening in mine – you consider using the Service NSW app and COVID Safe QR code to register all patients, staff and other visitors to your premises. In conjunction with the launch of this app, RACGP NSW/ACT has co-produced a business safety plan with NSW Health that’s appropriate for general practice. The plan will help you make sure that you, your staff and your community are able to offer a COVID safe plan into this phase of the pandemic. We now can look forward to the challenges of COVID vaccination clinics for all Australians as the final phase of beating the pandemic in 2021.

In non-COVID-related news, the RACGP Annual General Meeting was successfully held as a webcast on 30 November following GP20, our annual conference, which was also delivered online this year. During the AGM, we welcomed our new President, Dr Karen Price, and heard her outline the RACGP’s key priorities, which centre on you, our members.

We also paid tribute to the role Dr Harry Nespolon played as President up until his untimely death in July, and to the great job Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda did as Acting President over the last 4 months.

Finally, the RACGP successfully rolled out the new Remote Clinical Exam for 1100 GPs in training and had another 1400 resit their Applied Knowledge Test and Key Feature Problems exams as written papers after having the trauma of a failed remote platform in October.

I wish you all a festive and relaxing time over Christmas and New Year, and hope we don’t have any more nasty surprises in store for us next year – I think 2020 has provided us with enough disruption.

Assoc Prof Charlotte Hespe

Calendar of events

Calendar of online events

Event: Date: CPD points:
New Fellows Connect: Let's talk about finances: Medicare audit Wednesday 20 January 2021,
7.30–9.00‌ pm
New Fellows connect: Let's Talk About Finances – BAS & Superannuation Wednesday 3 February 2021,
7.30–9.00‌ pm
New Fellows connect: Let's talk about finances: Care plans Wednesday 17 February 2021,
7.30–9.00‌ pm
Supporting children who are above a healthy weight and their families Tuesday 23 February 2021,
7.30–8.30‌ pm
CPD activity (2 points)
Understanding cannabidiol Wednesday 24 February 2021,
7.30–8.30‌ pm
CPD activity (2 points)
International Medicine in Addiction Conference (IMiA21 Virtual) Friday to Sunday 26–28‌ February 2021 N/A
NSW influenza vaccinations update 2021 Tuesday 2 March 2021,
7.30–8.30‌ pm
CPD activity (2 points)
2021 Practice Owners National Conference – Save the date Saturday and Sunday 19–20‌ June 2021 N/A


Events in the spotlight

RACGP & NSW Health – The GP Edition podcast series

RACGP NSW&ACT has partnered with NSW Health to develop RACGP & NSW Health – The GP Edition, a podcast series to better engage GPs with health updates, patient programs and education relevant to routine general practice. Listen on SoundCloud.


RACGP holiday closure

The RACGP offices will be closed from 5.00‌ pm (AEDT) on Friday 18 December and will re-open 9.00‌ am (AEDT) on Monday 4 January 2021.

From all the staff at RACGP, we wish you a wonderful festive season and a happy new year.

We’d like to thank you for your support throughout the year – in particular, the hundreds of members who helped deliver our first Remote Clinical Exam and the face-to-face Applied Knowledge Test/Key Feature Problems exams, and the facilitators who helped deliver a busy schedule of webinars and online meetings. Your contributions are sincerely appreciated.

University of Sydney survey: Oral anti-coagulant treatment for atrial fibrillation

Do you have a spare five minutes to complete a survey on oral anti-coagulant (OAC) treatment for atrial fibrillation (AF)? The survey is part of a heart research study into GP knowledge, perceptions and practices regarding patient persistence and adherence to OAC treatment for stroke prevention in AF patients. The study is being led by Dr Nicole Lowres from the University of Sydney.

Take the survey

COVID Safe Check-in tool

The NSW Government has developed a free digital registration tool called the COVID Safe Check-in, accessed through the Service NSW app.

The COVID Safe Check-in tool allows patients to check in at your practice and help you remain COVID-safe and meet the requirements for accurately collecting and securely storing customer contact details. This information protects patients and practices by assisting contact tracing by NSW Health. For more information, visit the NSW Government website.

ACT December 2020 holiday testing and assessment information

You can find information on when and where COVID-19 testing will be available over the December 2020 holiday period, along with guidance on accessing primary care for regular health needs and non-life threatening injuries and illness on the RACGP website

National news

Review of the exam cancellations in October 2020

The Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) and Key Feature Problems (KFP) exam scheduled for October were cancelled after candidates were unable to complete or start the KFP. The RACGP responded by quickly authorising refunds and offering free resits for affected candidates. We immediately commissioned a review of the incident, conducted by two staff members with legal, audit and business analysis expertise and no affiliation with service provider Genix or the exams.

Genix found that the invigilation camera streaming software wasn’t able to cater for the number of candidates sitting the exam. The RACGP had identified issues related to remote proctoring during the mock exams – including some candidates reporting issues with streaming and videoconferencing – and despite further stress testing, unfortunately new issues emerged on exam day.

The reviewers interviewed key staff, distilled central themes and made 10 recommendations for process improvement across the RACGP, which will be tracked by the RACGP Board. These improvements relate specifically to project management, contract management and procurement.

In positive news, the KFP and AKT resits and the inaugural Remote Clinical Exam ran smoothly.

Federal Budget and Federal Election survey

You’re invited to take part in the RACGP’s Federal Budget and Federal Election survey.

We’ve outlined a number of key priorities in the RACGP Vision for general practice and a sustainable healthcare system. We’d like you to tell us, out of all the changes the system needs, which will make the biggest difference in the short/medium/long term. And is the vision missing anything you think is a priority in the short/medium/long term?

The survey closes on Thursday 24 December and all responses remain confidential.

Take the survey.

Survey on the 2020 flu season – Future vaccine deployment

To guide future vaccine deployment, the Department of Health (DoH) needs your feedback to evaluate the 2020 flu season.

GPs play a vital role in immunisation, so the DoH is conducting a survey to understand your thoughts, attitudes and experiences. Your feedback can help strengthen the management and delivery of the current flu vaccine program and improve the rollout of a future COVID-19 vaccine.

The survey will take approximately 10 minutes. It will close on Friday 15 January 2021 and all responses are anonymous.

Take the survey

RACGP online shop


Check out the new RACGP Shop, an exclusive online boutique for RACGP members with a range of casual wear, fun gifts and work attire.

As well as helping you incorporate your college into your work and weekend style, we’ll donate 75% of profits to the RACGP Foundation. The foundation supports general practice research that benefits members, general practice and the health of all Australians.

RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health 10-year anniversary commemorative items 

The shop is stocking a commemorative book and limited edition polo to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health faculty.

NSW Health update*

The Integrated Care Residential Aged Care initiative

The Integrated Care Residential Aged Care initiative recognises clinical improvements can be made for residents in care. The initiative promotes partnerships between NSW Health local health districts and residential aged care facilities to better manage the needs and care of residents, avoid unnecessary hospital transfers when clinically appropriate, and enhance their experience and outcomes.

Responding to the pandemic and preparing for future outbreaks has strengthened local relationships, resulting in a clearer understanding of what healthcare workers need to detect issues early and maintain the wellbeing of this vulnerable cohort.

Learn more on the NSW Government website.

Second Triage for RACFS

Residential aged care facilities (RACF) residents are at greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. NSW Health and NSW Ambulance have partnered to develop the Secondary Triage initiative, a pathway for low-priority ambulance calls.

This initiative aims to reduce unnecessary hospital transfers when clinically appropriate, providing access to the My Emergency Doctor Service and enabling facility staff to obtain a clinical assessment by a fully qualified emergency physician.

Since implementation, 53% of residents have successfully received care at their RACF. An evaluation is being progressed to extend the scope of the pathway.

Find out more on the NSW Government website.

E-cigarettes and young people

E-cigarettes and e-liquids containing nicotine are illegal in NSW. However, NSW Health has seen a significant increase in the number of e-cigarettes containing nicotine being sold in retailers across NSW.

These products generally contain high levels of nicotine and are targeted at young people. E-cigarettes can have negative, long-lasting health outcomes for young people, as vapours can contain cancer-causing agents and other toxins. E-cigarette users are also more likely to take up cigarette smoking.

NSW Health has developed information to help GPs and parents talk to young people about the risks of e-cigarettes. A compliance program with inspectors to seize illegal e-cigarette products and prosecute retailers is ongoing.

Drug alert

NSW Health has issued two public drug alerts for fentanyl and acetylfentanyl circulating in NSW. These potent opioids may be found in both heroin and cocaine in NSW.

In addition, NSW Health has issued a clinical safety notice for clinicians regarding fentanyl and acetylfentanyl, which includes patient-management and case-notification information.

Email with any questions.

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