November 2020

Chair report

Message from the Chair – Assoc Prof Charlotte Hespe

Hi everyone,

It’s wonderful to report that NSW continues to have very low numbers of community-acquired COVID-19 infections, with most being linked to known cluster sources of infection. However, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant reminds us that COVID-19 clusters can readily arise in our community without early detection. So it’s essential GPs continue to proactively test any and all patients with symptoms remotely suggestive of COVID-19, even when it seems unlikely or if there is an alternative diagnosis. High levels of testing, together with the use of COVID-safe protocols and telehealth consultations, are our most valuable defence against undetected routes of transmission.

As most of you are aware, the RACGP sadly experienced a failure of the online Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) and Key Feature Problems (KFP) exam, which has been an awful blow to our Fellowship candidates and colleagues. As announced our Acting President Assoc Prof Ayman Shenouda, the RACGP deeply regrets the distress and disruption this has caused. Full refunds began processing on 12 October, and all affected candidates will be offered a free re-sit of both the AKT and KFP within the next 18 months.

In better news, the first Remote Clinical Exam (RCE), which replaces the Objective Structured Clinical Exam, has been an amazing success. The hard work of our examiners and college staff has resulted in the successful delivery of more than 3300 separate exam encounters via Zoom with 1100 candidates over a period of three days.

October was also Mental Health Month, and this has served as an annual reminder to ensure that we as practitioners, our staff and our patients are okay. I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you all to practise the same protective strategies we prescribe to our patients, including mindfulness, relaxation, rest, exercise and engaging with our families and social networks.

Finally, I encourage you all to read the 2020 General Practice: Health of the Nation report that launched on the RACGP website Friday 13 November 2020. The report incorporates feedback from Fellows across Australia and data from Medicare and the Australian Bureau of Statistics to produce a unique overview of the achievements and challenges in general practice, including the impacts of COVID-19. It’s a really interesting read and should inspire lots of thought about how we can continue to deliver the best health outcomes possible to our population in Australia.

Thanks for taking the time to read my report, and here’s to a less stressful November as we head into December and the festive season.

Calendar of events

Events calendar

Event: Date: Location: CPD:
PrEP in 15 minutes – Southern NSW Tuesday 24 November 2020,
6.30–9.00 pm
Online CPD activity (5 points)
Engaging with people who use domestic and family violence Wednesday 25 November 2020,
7.30–8.30 pm
Online CPD activity (2 points)
PrEP in 15 minutes – Northern Sydney Monday 30 November, 2020,
6.30–9.00 pm
Online CPD activity (5 points)
Advances in robotically assisted gynaecological and thoracic surgery Tuesday 1 December 2020,
7.30–8.30 pm
Online CPD activity (2 points)
Evidence-based recommendation for managing obesity Wednesday 2 December 2020,
7.30–8.30 pm
Online CPD activity (2 points)
Befriending your new CPD dashboard Thursday 3 December 2020,
7.00–7.30 pm
Online Self-record
Suddenly I'm a leader: Directing and channelling your focus Tuesday 8 December 2020,
7.30–8.30 pm
Online CPD activity (2 points)
New Fellows Connect: Let's talk about finances Wednesday 9 December 2020,
7.30–8.30 pm
Online CPD activity (2 points)
An interventional approach to lung cancer and COPD Tuesday 15 December 2020,
7.30–8.30 pm
Online CPD activity (2 points)

Events in the spotlight

New Fellows Connect: Let’s talk about finances

Through the Virtual Connect online meetings, the New Fellows Committee has identified the need to explore financial management as a GP.

We’re excited to launch a series of four monthly meetings covering topics such as personal financial management, taxation, borrowing, superannuation and Medicare Benefits Schedule items.

Upcoming meetings:

We’ll confirm more meeting dates soon.


NSW&ACT GP Virtual Community of Practice

All NSW&ACT Faculty members are encouraged to join the NSW&ACT Virtual Community of Practice (vCOP), formed in April this year to share pandemic-related information, news and support with colleagues.

The vCOP is open to all GPs, as well as other primary healthcare practitioners, representative bodies, educators and academics. Meeting details are published on Basecamp, including Zoom links. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday 3 December 2020.

Email the NSW&ACT Faculty at for more information and an invitation to join the Basecamp site.

Trained registered nurses and midwives can now administer vaccinations in the ACT

From 21 August 2020, nurses and midwives in the ACT have been able to administer certain vaccines without a prescription if they have successfully completed a training course that meets the National Immunisation Education Framework for Health Professionals (December 2017).

The ACT Registered Nurse and Midwife Vaccination Standards outline the new arrangements for training and the administration of any Australian-registered vaccine included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

Visit the ACT Health website for more information on nurse and midwife immunisers.

National news

Changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from 1 November 2020

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) was updated on 1 November 2020. Refer to the FAQs relating to the access and use of the Online PBS Authorities System. For more information on broader PBS changes, visit the PBS website.

Revised templates for mental health care plans

The General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC) has published revised GP Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTPs) templates.

The GP MHTP templates can enhance the quality of mental healthcare you provide and support you in managing common mental illnesses under the Better Access initiative.

The updated templates are based on the latest available evidence for best-practice mental health assessment and treatment planning in general practice. This includes assessment for trauma-informed care and practice and a recovery-orientated approach to help define patient goals.

Visit the GPMHSC website for more information on the changes.

Download the revised templates.

Examiners needed for the Remote Clinical Exam

Enhance your career by becoming an examiner for the Remote Clinical Exam (RCE).

We need 200 examiners for the RCE in March and July 2021, with mock exams in January and May. Help test the knowledge and proficiency of our future GPs. You’ll receive training and more information upon selection.

Express your interest by Friday 27 November 2020 if you meet the following criteria:

  • Current financial RACGP member
  • RACGP Fellow (two or more years)
  • Good standing
  • Current and unrestricted AHPRA medical registration
  • CPD-compliant
  • Tech knowledge and confidence (video conferencing, screen sharing, email, web portals)
  • Medical education/training/assessment experience
  • Availability in January, March, May and July 2021 

Express your interest

RACGP library holiday closure

The John Murtagh Library will be closed from 12.00‌ pm (AEDT) Thursday 17 December 2020 to 9.00‌ am (AEDT) Monday 4 January 2021.

Before the holiday closure, please:

  • submit your requests for articles, training sessions and searches early to avoid disappointment
  • call 03 8699 0519, complete our online form or email if you need any help accessing our resources.

Remember you can access our ebooks, ejournals and databases online anytime, night or day.

The John Murtagh Library team wishes you all the best for a safe festive season and a happy new year!


Resources to help patients access the NDIS

The RACGP and the National Disability Insurance Agency have collaborated on new resources to help you support your patients to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Developed with help from RACGP members, the resources include an online learning module, videos on eligibility, an eligibility checklist and information on other health professionals involved in the NDIS.

If you have any feedback on the resources or suggestions for what else the RACGP can do to support you and your patients participating in or wishing to apply for the NDIS, email

NSW Health update*

Go4Fun Online program

Go4Fun Online is the digital version of the Go4Fun program. Just like the regular program, it’s FREE and available to children aged 7–13 years who are above a healthy weight and their families. The program runs over the 10-week school term and includes:
  • phone coaching
  • online modules
  • rewards and prizes
  • tools and resources to support positive behaviour change.

Go4Fun complements patient care to help the whole family adopt a healthier lifestyle and achieve significant outcomes.

Refer using Best Practice, Medical Director or Communicare software or online at Go4Fun or call 1800 7800 900.

Review of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966

The NSW Ministry of Health is reviewing the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966 and its regulations. The Act controls access to and availability of medicines and poisons in NSW. It’s more than 50 years old and doesn’t always reflect the current business or clinical environment, nor is it always responsive to public health needs. A consultation draft for public review is expected to be released in 2021.

New resources on issuing Medical Certificates Cause of Death and reporting deaths to the NSW Coroner

GPs have access to a range of information sources and support on how to complete a Medical Certificate Cause of Death and on which deaths must be reported to the NSW Coroner.

NSW Health recently ran an RACGP webinar that provided practical information on this topic. View the webinar.

The Coroners Court has also launched a new website with information for a deceased person’s loved ones, court users and healthcare professionals.

GPs with medical enquiries about whether a death is reportable can contact a Forensic Medicine Duty Forensic Pathologist on 02 9563 9000 (Sydney) or 02 4935 9700 (Newcastle).

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.