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RACGP NSW&ACT newsletter

8 November 2018

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Welcome and thanks for tuning into our monthly RACGP NSW&ACT catch up.

GP18 was a great success in early October on the Gold Coast. There were over 2000 GP attendees with a great range of continuing professional development activities and research sessions to attend. At the Annual General Meeting, the three special resolutions required to change the Constitution were all accepted. Please read my post on shareGP for more details. The practical implications of the changes in the Constitution to this faculty are the change of names: the Council is now called the RACGP Board, and the Faculty Board is now called the RACGP NSW&ACT Council. This means that the names now reflect the job that each group does – with the Board being the Board and our Faculty having the role of a Council.

I am honoured to be appointed Chair of the Board for 2018–19 and am looking forward to working alongside President Dr Harry Nespolon and Vice President Dr Ayman Shenoudas.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the New Fellows Committee on creating a terrific program of events that focuses on a healthy work–life balance for GPs.

Other upcoming events include a family-oriented afternoon at Camperdown Commons on Saturday 1 December, which includes a presentation on cosmetic medicine in the GP setting and a tour of the Commons urban farm. 

Another date to mark in your calendar is the Wellbeing Weekend on Saturday and Sunday 9–10 March at Angourie Rainforest Retreat, a beautiful seaside location. The program includes yoga, beach walks, surfing, and a series of engaging presentations and small group workshops. 

For our regional members, other important dates to save are Saturday 24 November for Starting a private practice at Kingscliff and Saturday 8 December for Skin cancer essentials event in Tamworth.     

On a final high note, last Saturday we held the RACGP NSW&ACT Fellowship Ceremony at Darling Harbour. There were over 900 members in attendance of which 240 were new Fellows. This year’s winner of the Rose Hunt Award, Dr Evan Ackerman, delivered the keynote address. Many thanks to everyone involved, particularly our staff who, yet again, excelled in organising such a great event.

I hope that you all have a busy and enjoyable November and I look forward to catching up again in December.

If anyone has spare time, don’t forget to download and listen to the ‘Just a GP’ podcast series that this faculty has been overseeing.

Chair message

Message from NSW&ACT Chair, Assoc Prof Charlotte Hespe

  • Annual General Meeting at GP18
  • NSW&ACT New Fellows Committee activities
  • Wellbeing weekend in March 2019
  • Sydney Fellowship and Awards Ceremony
  • 'Just a GP' podcast

Learning and development

Upcoming events

Event Date Location QI&CPD
Managing patients who are opioid dependent (Part 2) Tuesday 13 November Online 2 Category 2
Integrative approaches to women's health Saturday 17 November Westmead 40 Category 1 
General practice for children and young people in OOHC Wednesday 21 November Online 2 Category 2
Starting a private practice – Kingscliff Saturday 24 November Kingscliff 12 Category 2
CPR course for GPs – North Sydney Tuesday 27 November North Sydney 5 Category 2
Prep for PrEP - Bankstown Wednesday 28 November Bankstown 5 Category 2
New Fellows Connect: Cosmetic medicine Saturday 1 December Camperdown 2 Category 2
Skin cancer essentials Saturday 8 December Tamworth 40 Category 1 
Medical receptionist course Friday 28 February
and Thursday 1 March
Byron Bay N/A
Wellbeing Weekend Saturday and Sunday
9–10 March 2019
Angourie Resort 40 Category 1 

NSW&ACT news and events

Sydney Fellowship and Awards Ceremony celebration

On 3 November, almost 1000 GPs and their families and friends gathered at the International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour to celebrate the achievement of the RACGP Fellowship (FRACGP) – there were 232 new Fellows and eight award winners.

The day was one filled with colour, music and celebratory champagne. The RACGP is so proud to have such a diverse and professional group of new Fellows serving the community. We congratulate everyone who achieved their Fellowship.

New Fellows Wellbeing Weekend – Angourie Resort

Saturday and Sunday 9–10 March 2019

RACGP NSW&ACT is committed to optimising the wellbeing of GPs and is very pleased to announce the launch of a Wellbeing Weekend at Angourie Rainforest Resort, in Yamba, NSW.

The weekend will include discussions on important issues that affect doctors’ health, as well as practical workshops that are designed to provide you with new skills and different ways of enhancing your own wellbeing.

Set at a beautiful seaside location, the program includes yoga, beach walks, surfing, engaging presentations and small-group workshops.

The RACGP NSW&ACT New Fellows Committee created the Wellbeing Weekend for all GPs.

Find out more or register now.

Outgoing Council member interviews

Our NSW&ACT Board members are a wonderful resource both from the work they’ve done for the RACGP and in their experiences as GPs in their careers.

To connect you to them as colleagues and to share their reflections on the wonderful world of general practice, the RACGP NSW&ACT newsletter will now feature a brief profile of your outgoing and incoming board members.

This month, we interviewed outgoing Council member, Dr Sylvia Ireland. 

Your name:
Dr Sylvia Ireland

What is the region you represented?
I represented Newcastle on the RACGP NSW&ACT Council for four years, then the Nepean Blue Mountains for six years until 2018.

How long have you practiced as a GP?
I have been working in general practice since 1981, when my husband and I helped establish a new practice in Lorn, Maitland, where we stayed for 30 years. We relocated to the Blue Mountains in 2011 and I continue to work part-time in Katoomba.

Why did you choose/ why do you enjoy general practice?
Having had serious thoughts about general medicine and then paediatrics, I decided to stay with general practice, as it is only here that one can cultivate a variety of skills and develop new ones, all in the context of forming long-term relationships with patients and their families. This enriches one’s experience of life.

What is your most extraordinary experience as a doctor?
Rather than one extraordinary experience in general practice, I think of many encounters and stories that presented challenge, sadness and reflection. There were many home visits. One was to a nearby dairy farm to a farmer having renal colic (with my baby son asleep in the car), and many others to palliative care patients.

One of these cases, on a weekend a long way from town, was to deal with faecal impaction. One cannot work in general practice without seeing great human tragedy unfold; for example, the slowly dementing patient, one family discovered that both their children had retinitis pigmentosa and would lose their sight, and another with slowly evolving Huntington's disease which led to her being confined to a wheelchair watching her own daughter die from the same condition. Then there were the suicides. General practice enables a close-up look at the whole breadth of human experience.

What do you think the biggest future threat to general practice is?
I believe that the biggest future threat to general practice is the fragmentation of the doctor–patient relationship. This unique relationship has been shown to positively impact health outcomes and when it is eroded, not only does the individual have suboptimal care, but cost is added to the health system. The funding of general practice is pivotal to the provision of quality care and I believe that innovation in funding models is needed as purely fee for service is just not going to work into the future. We have been saying for a long time that general practice has always been and remains central to our health system, but a recognition of this, especially by government, remains a pipe dream.

Any other comments?
Having walked the walk for so long, I have observed that it is the journey we share with our patients that has intrinsic value, both to the doctor and the patient.

Congratulations Dr Alison Bielawski

RACGP NSW&ACT would like to extend congratulations to Dr Alison Bielawski FRACGP, who recently won the Health and Wellbeing Award at the Honour LGBTI Community Awards. Now in its twelfth year, the Honour Awards are an annual celebration of outstanding service and achievements in the LGBTI community in NSW.

Dr Bielawski’s award acknowledges that she has provided over 20 years of healthcare to the LGBTI community as a GP, and has been a strong advocate for the community through her involvement with various health advisory boards and committees. Well done!

National news and events

New content within the Murtagh Collection

Content from the John Murtagh’s general practice (7th edition) is now available in the Murtagh ebook collection.

Covering a range of traditional and modern practice, the book emphasises the importance of clinical reasoning, early diagnosis and strategies for solving common problems, continuing care, holistic management and tricks of the trade.

The Murtagh Collection also includes Susan Wearne’s popular textbook, Clinical cases for general practice exams, which is designed to help students and doctors practise clinical cases often seen by Australian GPs. Guidance on exam preparation and how to use the cases (including group study), is provided.

Each of the 80 cases include:

  • instructions for the doctor and student and the role-playing patient
  • a suggested approach, a case commentary and references
  • recommendations for further reading.

To find out more and to access this valuable, member-only resource, visit the Murtagh Collection and select the Murtagh's general practice (7th edition). Alternatively, select the link to Cases in the footer. Login to the RACGP website is required.

Future Leaders Program 2019 – Applications now open

This program is designed to help you recognise your strengths, will challenge you to think strategically and produce beneficial change. Importantly, the program will increase your confidence and enable you to influence change through an understanding of values and how they intersect with communication strategies. Delivered primarily online through webinars and peer-group sessions, this eight-month program includes the following topics:

• Focus on self: Using sing an online evaluation tool, mentoring and peer-group discussion to identify your individual needs and make the most of your own abilities.

• Focus on others: Apply techniques and methods for influencing and achieving change

• Focus on the future: How to take a birds-eye view of what is happening and identify ways of moving forward.

Find out more or register now.

Webinar: Exercise-associated muscle cramps

8.00–9.00 pm, Monday 12 November 2018

Exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMC) is a common condition experienced by recreational and competitive athletes. Despite the commonality and prevalence of the condition, the cause is still not well understood.

This webinar will examine recent evidence on the factors that contribute to EAMC, management practices and prevention strategies.

Dr Gill Cowen, Chair RACGP Specific Interests Sport and Exercise Medicine, will lead this discussion and present a case study. Participants are also encourage to bring their own cases, ideas and discussion points to share. 

Register now.

Real life ‘locuming’: Challenges, anecdotes and adventure

7.30–9.00 pm, Wednesday 28 November 2018

Back by popular demand, RACGP Rural will host a second webinar in the locum series for rural and remote GP locums and GPs interested in rural locum work.

Our experienced facilitators, Dr Adam Brownhill and Dr Wendy Sexton, return to guide further discussions on the challenges and issues associated with GP locum work.

Discussion topics include drugs of dependence, critically unwell patients, education and continuing professional development, getting paid, staff dynamics, illness and family or personal emergencies, and more.

For more information, email or call 1800 636 764.

Register now

NSW Health updates

Testing for HIV in heterosexual men who have sex with other men

Testing for HIV in heterosexual men who have sex with other men

Avoid assumptions about patients’ risk of HIV infection

NSW Health data shows a need to increase HIV testing among heterosexual men who have sex with other men. These men may be in heterosexual relationships, are married, have children and/or come from a range of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. For these men, having sex with other men may be hidden and separate from their public lives, they may not feel comfortable asking for an HIV test, or even see themselves at risk of HIV.

Some HIV infections are acquired by men who have sex overseas, in countries where HIV prevalence is high among the general population and/or in certain groups, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs.

NSW Health data suggests in these groups of people HIV is being diagnosed late. Late diagnosis can lead to HIV-related illness otherwise prevented by early effective treatment. Men with undiagnosed infection can also unknowingly pass HIV on to other sexual partners.

In the lead up to World AIDS Day (Saturday 1 December), NSW Health encourages GPs to increase HIV testing for all patients at risk of HIV. GPs should avoid assumptions about a person’s HIV risk and offer testing to patients who:

  • are heterosexual men who have sex with men
  • have had sex when traveling in a country where HIV is common
  • have had sex with someone from a country where HIV is common
  • come from a country where HIV is common.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and offer testing.

Resources to help you
NSW Health provides resources and support to make HIV testing easier than ever.

Remember, the NSW HIV Support Program and NSW Sexual Health Infolink are available to support GPs and patients for when a diagnosis is made.

Test for HIV in a diverse range of patients – make testing easy for all.

NSW OOHC Health Pathway Program

GPs play a vital role in the care and protection of children and young people in out-of-home care (OOHC). Children and young people in OOHC often have a complex history of trauma and abuse that can significantly impact their physical, developmental, and psychological health and wellbeing.

What is the NSW OOHC Health Pathway Program?
NSW Health and Family and Community Services established the OOHC Health Pathway in 2010 to address the high and unmet health needs of children and young people entering statutory OOHC in NSW.

The Pathway ensures children and young people:

  • receive screening, assessment, intervention, monitoring and review of their health needs
  • are encouraged to take control of their healthcare and learn to navigate the health system.

Has the Pathway been evaluated?
An evaluation of the OOHC Health Pathway in 2013 found that the Pathway:

  • significantly improved access and provision to health services
  • improved health outcomes.

What is the role of GPs?

  1. Complete Primary Health screening and provided form
  2. Request further information (if required) on the child or young person’s trauma history under Chapter 16A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1997
  3. Make referrals for a comprehensive assessment if needed
  4. May support the development of a Health Management Plan
  5. Ongoing healthcare – continuity of care is critical for children and young people in OOHC
  6. Be alert to concerns about carers

What is the role of the Health OOHC Pathway Coordinator?
Each local Health District has a Health OOHC Pathway Coordinator who:

  • organises health assessments and reviews for children and young people in OOHC
  • coordinates information to help GPs meet children and young people’s healthcare needs.

To contact your local Health OOHC Coordinator or to learn more about the program, visit the OOHC Program website.

Together, we can help protect the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people.

The NSW Health Child Wellbeing Unit is here to advise GPs

In NSW, GPs and general practice nurses can contact the NSW Health Child Wellbeing Unit to seek advice if they have concerns about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child, young person or an unborn child.

The NSW Health Child Wellbeing Unit is a telephone support service staffed by child protection professionals proficient in the assessment and planning of responses for vulnerable and at-risk children and young people.

All contacts with the NSW Health Child Wellbeing Unit are documented in a state-wide, interagency database. When required, the NSW Health Child Wellbeing Unit can report high-risk matters to the Child Protection Helpline.

Call the NSW Health Child Wellbeing Unit on 1300 480 420 from 8.30 am – 5.00 pm Monday to Friday. Alternatively, leave a message after hours.

If you suspect a child or young person is at imminent risk of significant harm, call the Child Protection Helpline directly on 13 21 11 (open 24 hours, seven days a week).

Find out more on the NSW Health website.

Pre-pregnancy information for GPs

The NSW Health website has been updated and now includes pre-pregnancy information:

External news and events

Can you help us test a new placebo inhaler device?

Woolcock Institute is looking for 200 GPs to volunteer in the testing of a new placebo inhaler device.

Woolcock staff will provide GPs their placebo inhaler devices and personalised education on inhaler technique. The staff will conduct two five-minute visits at the time of testing.

Register your interest today by emailing

A snapshot of Australian Veterans’ Mental Health Research: Important insights for clinical practice

7.15–8.30 pm, Monday 3 December 2018

The Mental Health Professionals’ Network, on behalf of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is producing a free webinar series to support practitioners with better responding to the mental health needs of veterans.

Register now to hear two leading researchers present the outcomes of their most current research exploring the prevalence of mental health disorders in Australian veterans and the associated pathways to care, followed by a panel of clinicians identifying these pathways.


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