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RACGP NSW&ACT newsletter

7 February 2019

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Welcome to the first edition of the 2019 RACGP NSW&ACT newsletter. We hope you had a restful break and an easy transition into the new year.

2019 will be a big year for RACGP and members: both state and federal elections are impending and it is also the last year of the current Quality Improvement and Continuing Professional Development (QI&CPD) triennium. Our wonderful staff will be working hard to ensure all GPs meet their QI&CPD requirements. Please remember that they are available to answer any questions you might have.

On a similar note, the RACGP and NSW Ministry of Health partnership will help NSW GPs with gaining those last QI&CPD points for the triennium. We have a jam-packed schedule of webinars on topics, such as:

These are complemented with local face-to-face events on topics that include pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) management and hepatitis C to be held in locations, such as Bankstown and Hurstville. The list of education events is available on the RACGP website.

Finally, if you’re already missing the summer holidays, please consider joining your colleagues at the Wellbeing Weekend this March. Facilitated by doctors, it will be a wonderful opportunity to relax and reflect on the upcoming year. More information is available on the RACGP website.

Wishing you all a happy and productive 2019!

Chair message

Message from NSW&ACT Chair, Assoc Prof Charlotte Hespe

  • Welcome
  • End of current triennium
  • Upcoming webinars and face-to-face events

Learning and development

Upcoming events

Event Date Location QI&CPD
Smoking cessation for people with mental illness Tuesday 12 February Online 2 Category 2
CPR course for GPs – North Sydney Monday 18 February North Sydney 5 Category 2
Initiating end-of-life discussions in general practice Wednesday 20 February Online 2 Category 2
Prep for PrEP: Prevent HIV From Your Practice Tuesday 26 February Bankstown 5 Category 2
Medical receptionist course  Thursday 28‌ February
and Friday 1‌ March
Byron Bay N/A
Cardiac rehabilitation for Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander people
Thursday 28 February  Online 2 Category 2
A guide to naloxone for GPs Wednesday 6 March Online 2 Category 2
Curing Hep C in your general practice Wednesday 13 March Parramatta 5 Category 2
Curing Hep C in your general practice Wednesday 20 March Port Macquarie 5 Category 2

NSW&ACT news and events

Medical receptionist course

Thursday 28 February – Friday 1 March, Byron Bay

The 'Medical receptionist course' recognises the important role that receptionists play in improving the patient journey and in promoting the practice.

The course covers a range of topics for new and current non-medical practice staff to increase staff skills and confidence levels, while working in the practice. CPR included.

Read more

CPR Courses

As we are coming to the end of the triennium, RACGP NSW&ACT will run more CPR courses over this year at various metropolitan areas. In the first half of the year, we will run courses in North Sydney, Burwood, Wollongong and Hurrstville. More courses will be held in the second half of the year.

Our courses are designed to provide GPs with the necessary CPR knowledge and skills as per the requirement in the 2017–19 Quality Improvement and Continuing Professional Development (QI&CPD) triennium. Certificates in CPR are issued on completion of the respective courses.

North Sydney
Monday 18 February 2019
Register now

Thursday 4 April 2019
Register now.

Monday 27 May 2019
Register now.

North Sydney
Wednesday 24 June 2019
Register now

Monday 29 July 2019
Register now.

Australia Day Honours recipients

We would like to congratulate all Australia Day Honours recipients, in particular Emeritus Professor John Murtagh AO and the following NSW members for their enormous contribution to the advancement of general practice, and their work within the local communities in the state:

  • Dr Venny Armanno OAM
  • Dr Phillip Brownlie OAM
  • Dr Peter Davidson OAM
  • Dr Stephan Howle OAM
  • Dr Robert Marr OAM

Council member interviews

In 2019, we shall continue introducing our RACGP NSW&ACT Council members. This month, please meet Dr Penny Burns and Clinical Assoc Prof Rashmi Sharma OAM.

Dr Penny Burns

What is the region you represent?
Sydney North Shore and Beaches.

What attracted you to general practice?
I come from a family of geologists, teachers and farmers and didn’t really know what a career in medicine meant. I was attracted to general practice by its complex, holistic management of the person in the expanding contexts of family, community, culture, and environment, but also because it offered the opportunity to prevent illness and educate people about health.

What has been your best moment as a general practitioner?
Seeing children excited to come in and see the doctor.

What do you love about working in your region?
The diversity of medicine I see. I have worked in GP in other countries and in rural and urban areas. Even within such defined urban areas as ours, there exist a variety of cultures, demographics and life philosophies, which means a variety of medical presentations and needs.

What’s one thing you have learnt that you think other GPs could benefit from?
I think it is hard to mention something most other GPs don’t already know, but I feel one of my greatest learnings has been in seeking to find enjoyment and connection with each patient you meet.

What’s one thing no-one knows about you?
My favourite holiday is scuba diving in Papua New Guinea.

Penny Burns


Assoc Prof Rashmi Sharma OAM

What is the region you represent?
ACT and North Coast NSW.

How long have you practiced as a GP?
20 years.

Why did you choose/why do you enjoy general practice?
I chose general practice as I wanted to have some control over my destiny and general practice could offer this. I was in the middle of experiencing ‘boys club’ nepotism and, unfortunately, the then racism of the hospital system, and still continuing in that system, was not desirable for me. General practice offered a profession that was intellectually stimulating and also respectful of me and my background – Indian ethnicity born and bred in the United Kingdom with a British passport.

General practice is an amazing privilege of being able to be an integral part of your patient’s life and wellbeing, and also have the opportunity to be involved in different aspects of health, such as being a business owner, teacher, administrator, policy advisor and, most of all a clinician.

What is your most extraordinary experience as a doctor?
The privilege of being able to be an important part of people's lives – it may sound corny, but it always amazes me when a small bit of advice given in a consult can make such a huge difference in people's life; it is a great feeling every time.

Also, the sheer opportunities that general practice has provided me in my career. I remember pinching myself once during a Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) meeting – where there were external observers from a foreign government present – thinking that a simple suburban GP like myself was able to represent our profession on this committee.

What do you think the biggest future threat to general practice is?
Disunity amongst the profession paves the way for a reduction in the perception of the value of GP in the eyes of the community and politicians.

Rashmi RACGP

National news and events

2019 RACGP Foundation grants and awards opens soon

This year, RACGP Foundation is proud to offer 16 research grants and awards to GPs and registrars. Up to half a million dollars is available in general practice research funding. You could play a vital role in shaping the health of Australia.

RACGP Foundation is where general practice research begins.

Online applications open on Tuesday 5 March 2019.

Read more.

National Close the Gap Day 2019 – Get involved

Most Australians enjoy one of the highest life expectancies of any country in the world, but this is not true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Close the Gap Campaign was established over a decade ago to work towards closing the health gap and achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality within a generation. It has transformed from a popular movement into a force that has shaped government policy.

But, there is more to be done!

You can join in and support change during the National Close the Gap Day on Thursday 21 March 2019.

To participate, you can:

  • register your own event
  • attend a Close the Gap event in your area
  • sign the online petition calling for action from governments, or
  • share information with your networks via social media.

No matter how big or small, every action is important to help raise awareness.

For more information and advice, visit the Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation website or email RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.

It’s the final year of this QI&CPD triennium – How are you progressing?

As we enter the final year of the 2017–19 QI&CPD triennium, now is a great time to review your progress and complete any outstanding requirements.

As a reminder, the 2017–19 triennium requires a minimum of 130 points comprising:

  • two Category 1 activities, one of which must be a quality improvement activity
  • one CPR activity.

If you are unsure of the current state of your progress, you can view it online:

  1. Log into myCPD
  2. Select My QI&CPD statement
  3. Select triennium 2017–19.

We encourage you to be pro-active and avoid rushing to complete tasks. There is still a whole year ahead, but we encourage you not to leave things to the last minute.

For more information on the QI&CPD 2017–19 triennium, visit the RACGP website. For further support, contact our QI&CPD team.

NSW Health updates

GPs are taking a lead role in eliminating hepatitis C

NSW is committed to rapidly increasing the number of people starting hepatitis C treatment in order to virtually eliminate hepatitis C by 2028. GPs are taking a lead role prescribing over half of all hepatitis C treatments in NSW. Hepatitis C treatments are now highly efficacious, of short duration and are well tolerated. They are recommended for all people with hepatitis C.

Every patient with a risk factor for hepatitis C should be tested. If a positive diagnosis is made, you may receive follow up from the pathology service or an offer of support from your local public health unit or liver clinic. All patients you diagnosed with hepatitis C in the past should be called back to discuss the new treatment options.

Simplified guidelines to make prescribing easier

The Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA) has produced:

  • pre-treatment questions and checklist
  • two pan-genotypic treatment protocols, and
  • consensus treatment guidelines.

Upcoming face-to-face training on Hep C is scheduled for two locations: 

New HIV diagnosis? HIV Support Program can assist

NSW Health has a new HIV Support Program to assist doctors and their newly diagnosed patients to access the services they need.

If your patient’s HIV test is positive, a local HIV specialist will call and offer you support to provide the diagnosis tailored to your patient’s presentation and the services available in your area. They will also help you to link your patient to local HIV treatment services.

Every person newly diagnosed with a HIV infection has the right to the five key support services:

  1. Appropriate clinical management, including treatment.
  2. Psychosocial support.
  3. HIV treatment counselling and the prevention of transmission.
  4. Assistance with contacting partners and others at risk.
  5. Access to relevant specialist and community services.

Find out more about the NSW HIV Support Program.

Download a booklet on the NSW HIV Support Program.

A study into the impact of diabetic retinopathy screening in general practice

In 2016, the Medicare Benefits Schedule reimbursement was introduced for diabetic retinopathy (DR) screening by non-ophthalmologists using a non-mydriatic camera (NMC). To date, the uptake by GPs has been low. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) will be conducting a study on the impact of diabetic retinopathy screening in the general practice setting.

The research group is seeking large group practices in Western and South Western Sydney to assist in a translational DR screening study. Practices will be provided with a camera and a trained research assistant to assist over the four-week trial.

If you would like to be involved in this important study, please email Dr Rahul Dubey on or call 0403 026 885.

Changes regarding urgent use medications at NSW residential care facilities

Under changes to the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008, all NSW residential care facilities may now hold stock of certain Schedule 2, 3, 4 and 8 medications for urgent use. Previously, only those RCFs classified as a ‘nursing home’ under the Regulation could hold stock of urgent use medications. Various general and administrative requirements must be met for medication distribution.

Find out more.

Workers compensation

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) has advised that the medical practitioner fees for workers compensation clients have been updated. These changes apply to services delivered on/after 1 January 2019.

GPs are reminded that to bill an Australian Medical Association (AMA) item, they must be confident that they have fulfilled the service requirements specified in the item descriptor, noting that services provided by medical practitioners in the NSW workers compensation system are complexity-based, not time-based.

Please refer to the 2019 Medical Practitioner Fees Order, the PDF summary of general practitioner rates and letter from SIRA.

Infectious syphilis alert for NSW

Syphilis is a highly contagious sexually transmissible infection (STI) that can cause stillbirth, preterm labour and congenital abnormalities. An ongoing outbreak of syphilis has been spread among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across mainly rural and remote areas of Australia, with 2378 outbreak cases since 2011, including 15 congenital cases with 7 deaths.

The NSW Ministry of Health is requesting that all aboriginal people under 35 years of age be screened as part of an STI screen, especially during antenatal testing. Increased vigilance in general practice can help protect our NSW Aboriginal population.

Find out more.

External news and events

Upcoming external events:

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