Information for GP Synergy GP registrars, PEP participants, GP supervisors, practice staff, clinical teaching visitors and other stakeholders.
The situation is changing constantly, and these documents will be reviewed regularly and updated as appropriate.
GP Synergy acknowledges the impacts of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic on registrars, participants, supervisors and practices. The training environment is changing rapidly. These FAQs are designed to provide you with information to navigate some of the uncertainty and are updated regularly.
Last Updated 25 March 2021
GP Synergy acknowledges the impacts of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic on registrars, participants, supervisors and practices. The training environment is changing rapidly. These FAQs are designed to provide you with information to navigate some of the uncertainty and are updated as required.
Important: If you are a registrar, participant, supervisor or practice manager with an accredited GP Synergy training practice and you are concerned that you may have contracted COVID-19, please seek medical advice and when you are able, please advise GP Synergy on 1300 477 963.
These FAQs contains information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on education and training for the following:
- Registrars – Doctors training within the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program
- Supervisors – Doctors accredited as Supervisors with GP Synergy, for AGPT program
- Practices – Accredited training practices with GP Synergy
- Participants – Doctors working in general practice who are supported in the RACGP Practice Experience Program (PEP)
- External Teaching Visitors – GPs providing CTVs for registrars and work-based assessors for PEP participants.
This document is written with advice from RACGP/ACRRM and the Department of Health.
The situation is changing constantly, and these documents will be reviewed regularly and updated as appropriate.
Summary of updates: 25 March 2021
Please see the body of the FAQs for more details:
- Detailed information regarding requirements for registrars and PEP participants wishing to work in COVID-19 vaccination clinics including impacts to training.
Managing the COVID-19 illness
If you are unwell and/or diagnosed with COVID-19, please seek medical attention and take time off to recover and self-isolate. Please notify GP Synergy as soon as possible. Please follow the advice of the Public Health Unit in your local jurisdiction to ensure the situation is managed in accordance with the latest advice.
Registrars working in general practice or community terms: Please discuss arrangements for any sick leave with your practice. As per the NTCER, registrars are entitled to 5 days of paid sick leave and 10 days of paid annual leave (or full time equivalent) per 6-month term. Sick leave taken in addition to this is classified as Category 1 leave. At this time, this leave is usually unpaid and does not count towards training time. If you need to take additional leave please notify GP Synergy by completing a leave form, with a clear indication on the form that this leave is being taken as sick leave due to COVID-19. You will also need to attach a doctors certificate or NSW statutory declaration or ACT statutory declaration. Please see further advice from RACGP and ACRRM.
Registrars working in hospital environments: Please discuss your situation with your hospital manager. If you have sick leave to cover your absence, please take this. Any sick leave taken in addition to this is classified as Category 1 leave from the program. This leave does not count towards training time. If you need to take additional leave please notify GP Synergy by completing a leave form, with a clear indication on the form that this leave is being taken as sick leave due to COVID-19. You will also need to attach a doctors certificate or NSW statutory declaration or ACT statutory declaration. Please see further advice from RACGP and ACRRM.
PEP Participants: Please negotiate any sick leave directly with the practice. Please inform GP Synergy so we can provide you with advice or support regarding your time and requirements in the program. Please also seek further advice from RACGP.
Supervisors: Please discuss suitable arrangements within your practice to provide supervision while you recover, ideally handing over supervising responsibilities to an on-site supervisor colleague/specialist GP. If there is another GP Supervisor in the practice who can provide supervision to meet minimum on-site requirements no supervisor leave form is required. If another specialist GP in the practice can take over on-site supervision responsibilities while you recover complete a supervisor leave form and return to GP Synergy.
If these alternative supervision options are limited and you believe you are well enough to continue supervising a registrar by phone, please continue to supervise, in conjunction with other doctors who are on-site in your practice. In this situation it is essential to complete the Telehealth Supervision Form with your registrar and return to GP Synergy. This is particularly important if there are periods of time when no other doctors are on-site to provide support to the registrar. There is a telehealth supervision guide you can refer to as you complete the telehealth supervision plan.
If there are no other on-site supervisors or specialist GPs to cover the supervision in your practice while you recover and you are not well enough to supervise the registrar by phone contact your PLSO immediately so that GP Synergy may see if there is a suitable alternate arrangement such as remote supervision. If remote supervision is appropriate while you recover complete the specific supervisor leave form for remote supervision.
If you need to contact GP Synergy urgently after hours regarding a COVID-19 issue, please call 0419 149 490.
Please self-isolate as required by medical or government advice. Supervisors and registrars are encouraged to plan in advance for this possibility by completing the Telehealth Supervision Form together and returning it to GP Synergy.
Registrars: If you and the practice are set up for tele-health and you are able to be supervised, you may be able to use this time to do telehealth consultations. Please complete the Telehealth Supervision Form with your supervisor and return to GP Synergy. Alternatively, if you can, use this time to study (if you are sitting exams in the future) or catch up on any reading/journal articles or any alternate education GP Synergy may set. Please record any of this work in your GPRime practice logs. If you have sick leave or annual leave entitlements, you may use these for self-isolation following discussion of these arrangements with your employer. Your employer will follow the relevant legislation regarding leave for self-isolation. If you do not have any sick or annual leave please notify GP Synergy by completing a leave form, with a clear indication on the form that this leave is being taken to self-isolate. You will also need to attach a doctors certificate or NSW statutory declaration or ACT statutory declaration for periods of self-isolation over 2 weeks. Please see further advice from RACGP and ACRRM regarding self-isolation.
PEP Participants: If you and the practice are set up for telehealth you may be able to use this time to do tele-health consultations. Otherwise, if you can, use this time to study or for catching up on your program requirements. Please notify GP Synergy so we can best assist you with your learning progress during the isolation time.
Supervisors: If you are supervising a registrar and are able to do so by phone, please continue to supervise, in conjunction with other doctors who are on-site in your practice. Please confirm the acceptability of arrangements for phone supervision with your registrar during this period and complete the Telehealth Supervision Form with your registrar and return to GP Synergy. This is particularly important if there are periods of time when no other doctors are on site to provide support to the registrar. If self-isolation will mean your registrar does not have the requisite on-site supervision, please let GP Synergy know ASAP by completing the appropriate supervisor leave form and contacting your PLSO so alternate arrangements can be made.
GP Synergy advises registrars and participants to seek advice from their supervisors and practice managers regarding the management of COVID-19 in their practice. Supervisors, practices and participants without supervisors should refer to local up-to-date resources regarding COVID-19, which includes but is not limited to, NSW Health/ACT Health information, your local Public Health Unit (PHU) or PHN (HealthPathways), RACGP/ACRRM updates, your Medical Defence Organisation (MDO). Please note that social media is often used as a source of FOAMED (free open access medical education) information, however, authenticity of this information is not guaranteed and should be checked. A list of resources is included at the end of this FAQs.
Please ensure you are vaccinated for influenza (when available) and that all your other immunisations are up to date.
Supervisors/Practice Managers: If your practice is not following Public Health guidelines for COVID-19 management your practice is putting your staff and registrar at risk. Please work towards compliance with the Public Health advice for the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as the resources mentioned above, GPSA also has an excellent COVID-19 resource.
Registrars: Following Public Health advice regarding COVID-19 is essential for your welfare. If your practice is not meeting the expected standards for COVID-19, please discuss this immediately with your supervisor/practice manager. If the standards are not able to be met please contact your medical educator and education coordinator.
Participants: It is important for your welfare that you and your practice follow Public Health advice regarding COVID-19. We encourage you to be proactive in ensuring that your practice follows the COVID-19 guidelines. If you have any concerns, please contact your GP Synergy medical educator and inform the RACGP.
Training impacts due to COVID-19
GP Synergy sees the roll out of the government funded COVID-19 vaccination centres to GP clinics as an important service to communities in NSW and ACT. We would like to support registrars and PEP participants to work in COVID-19 vaccination clinics where appropriate.
We are aware that GPs in training have had reduced exposure to routine general practice presentations over the past 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and due to increased involvement in influenza vaccine clinics. For this reason, GP Synergy have put in place the following guidelines for registrars and PEP participants.
GP registrars and participants choosing to undertake COVID vaccination or COVID clinic work are advised to ensure they meet necessary regulatory requirements, such as, but not limited to, completing any compulsory education and training, appropriate medical indemnity and Workcover. Registrars should also be adequately supervised so that they are confident to work in the service.
Registrars: For registrars that wish to count working in an immunisation clinic that is associated with their current practice towards training time, we ask that full time registrars participate in no more than 8 hours a week of immunisation clinics and part-time registrars no more than 4 hours per week. Due to the structure of the COVID-19 vaccination clinics, the usual requirement of a maximum of 4 patients an hour will not apply for these clinics.
If registrars wish to work additional hours in these clinics and it is safe to do so from a Work Health and Safety, fatigue and contractual perspective, they are able to do so. These additional hours will not count towards GP training. If registrars wish to work in COVID-19 immunisation clinics not associated with their GP registrar placement this is also not able to be counted towards training. Please note, there are separate arrangements for registrars working in respiratory clinics, please see further information on GPRime.
Registrars who have training affected by participating in vaccination clinics above this recommended amount may access additional training time under the AGPT COVID-19 extension policy. If you are concerned that you are not seeing the breadth of clinical practice due to participation in immunisation clinics or otherwise, please discuss this with your medical educator.
PEP participants: Participants need to satisfy the minimum clinical working hours in wide scope general practice. Any vaccination clinics are on top of their minimum requirements. For any further clarification contact your GP Synergy medical educator.
Supervisors/Practice Managers: If your current registrar wishes to work in an immunisation clinic associated with your practice and has met the necessary regulatory requirements, then they are able to do so. To avoid disruption to training time, we ask that registrars participate in no more than 8 hours a week of immunisation clinics and part-time registrars no more than 4 hours per week. Due to the structure of the COVID-19 vaccination clinics, the usual requirement of a maximum of 4 patients an hour will not apply for these clinics.
If registrars wish to work additional hours in these clinics and it is safe to do so from a Work Health and Safety, fatigue and contractual perspective, they are able to do so. These additional hours will not count towards GP training.
If you wish to employ a GP registrar that is not currently associated with your practice to work in your immunisation clinic then you are able to do so, however, the registrar is employed as a medical officer and not a GP registrar and this time cannot count towards training. Please note, there are separate arrangements for registrars working in respiratory clinics, please see further information on GPRime.
Please review the new Telehealth Resources page on GPRime.
Registrars & Supervisors: Telehealth may be considered as the clinical component of training if appropriate supervision provisions are in place. For patient and registrar safety, there must be adequate supervision in place for these consultations.
Telehealth consultations fall outside of the scope of the usual standards for supervision for GP training. GP Synergy has developed an RACGP and ACRRM approved telehealth supervision plan for supervisors and registrars to complete to ensure that there is adequate supervision in place.
The approved telehealth supervision plan will need to be completed in the following instances:
- Where the registrar is doing ANY OFF-SITE telehealth consultations
- Where the registrar is doing EXCLUSIVELY ON-SITE telehealth consultations
- Where the supervisor is consulting OFF-SITE to the extent that they are unable to meet their on-site supervision requirements
If the registrar is doing telehealth and seeing patients in the practice and the supervisor is co-located, meeting the minimum required on-site supervision for the registrar’s stage of training, this plan does not need to be completed.
Registrars: If you are participating in telehealth consultations:
- Please review the newly developed Quick guide to telehealth consultations for registrars on GPRime
- If you meet any of the above criteria, please work with your supervisor to complete the Telehealth Supervision Plan
- Please record your telehealth consultations in your practice log, instructions are on page 9 of the Practice Log Help Sheet.
The recent GPRA survey indicated that a number of registrars did not feel comfortable with the level of supervision provided for their telehealth consultations. For those who are in that position, we encourage you to try and work with your supervisor to complete the Telehealth Supervision Plan. If this is not possible, or you have difficulty achieving this with your supervisor please discuss this with your ME as soon as possible so we can support the appropriate supervision requirements being met.
Supervisors/Practices: If your registrar is participating in telehealth consultations in any of the above instances, or you anticipate that your registrar may be working this way shortly, please complete the GP Synergy Telehealth Supervision Plan with your registrar and return to your PLSO at GP Synergy.
PEP Participants: telehealth consultations are able to be undertaken if organised and run by your practice.
Both ACRRM and RACGP are returning to near-normal scheduling of exams. Please review the relevant college assessment website for enrolment and exam dates.
Registrars, Supervisors and CT Visitors: Prior to 30 April 2021 CTVs will continue to be undertaken as remote visits. The aim is for the transition to a blended approach with a mix of both remote and face-to-face CTVs to occur in the second half of the semester from 3 May to 3 Aug 2021. From 3 May the expectation is that some CTVs involving direct observation, currently listed as video/phone CTVs, will be undertaken face to face if COVID-19 restrictions permit this. This will be reviewed in the coming weeks and more information will be made available to registrars, CT visitors and practices closer to the time.
Remote CTVs that do not involve direct observation of patient consultations such as Random Case Analysis and Case-Based Discussion CTVs will continue to be provided as remote CTVs. We believe that face to face CTVs provide a well-rounded educational experience for the registrar and enable a holistic view of the registrar working in their practice. However, the evidence so far indicates that remote CTVs of varied types can be a safe and educationally effective alternative.
PEP participants: Direct observations will continue remotely. The PEP administrative team will be in contact about your direct observation/s each term.
Registrars: The AGPT COVID-19 policy is in place to allow some flexibility with training time. If you require training time flexibility, please discuss this with your education coordinator and/or medial educator.
Please refer to the AGPT COVID-19 support policy https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/agpt-program-covid-19-support-policy-2020
Examples of training impacts due to COVID
I’m in a general practice term and need to take leave within the NTCER allowances
Discuss this with your practice and ensure leave is logged in your GPRime log books
I’m in a general practice term, and need to take more leave then allowed under NTCER, due to COVID
Discuss this with your practice and contact GP Synergy about applying for COVID leave
I’m in a general practice term and my training has been affected by COVID (such as significantly reduced patient numbers)
Contact GP Synergy about applying for COVID Extension
I’m in a hospital term, but I’ve been reallocated to a COVID respiratory or Fever clinic
Contact GP Synergy to discuss immediately
PEP participants: If you require any flexibility with training time please contact your PEP medical educator.
Education impacts due to COVID-19
At present, we continue to do most education remotely. Please refer to the Calendar Page on the GP Synergy website for regular updates to educational events. In 2021, we will transition to moving as much education as possible to face to face where it is feasible to do so.
Registrars: We are pleased to advise the 2021.1 mandatory education calendar for registrars in their first or second GP training term is now available. Registrars will also be sent these dates. Please add the relevant dates to your roster as required. The 2021.1 registrar education program has been developed by the local teams to be delivered remotely. As the COVID-19 situation evolves we hope to return to face-to-face education wherever it is safe and possible to do so.
This program is subject to change to allow for this flexibility. Any changes will be notified to you at least 8 (eight) weeks in advance to allow for adjustment to your work schedules.
PEP Participants: The webinar series will continue to be delivered. All events, compulsory and optional requirements of the program will be conducted remotely online. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
Supervisors/Practices: The 2021 calendar is available on the Calendar Page on the GP Synergy website. In 2021 the supervisor professional development regional workshops will be delivered using a blended approach of online and face to face events. Please note, this program is subject to change in response to COVID-19. You will be advised of any changes at least eight weeks in advance.
GP Synergy has an online immunisation module available to all registrars. While this module does not yet cover the COVID-19 vaccinations, it does provide an overview of how to give immunisations and things to consider when vaccinating adults and children. Please utilise this resource if required. Registrars can access this through the Quick Links and Subscriptions tab on GPRime.
Education undertaken to provide COVID-19 vaccinations may count towards GP Synergy’s education requirements. Please discuss with your medical educator if you wish to have this education counted towards your 144 compulsory hours.
It is known that older people are not as well immunised as they should be and GP Synergy data has found that some vulnerable groups (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, those in rural areas, and those in lower socioeconomic areas) are even less likely to have immunisation performed than the general older population when seeing registrars. Opportunistic promotion of COVID-19 immunisation to these groups should be kept in mind, as should the opportunity to immunise these patients for influenza, pneumococcus, and zoster in accordance with current recommendations and advice.
Australian COVID vaccination information and national rollout strategy
- The Commonwealth is leading the vaccine rollout.
- The Commonwealth COVID-19 vaccines website is regularly updated as information becomes available: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.
- The National Strategy is available at: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/australias-covid-19-vaccine-national-roll-out-strategy.
NSW vaccination information
- NSW Health is responsible for some aspects of the initial rollout. The NSW Health COVID vaccination webpage is now live.
- Landing page: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/covid-vaccination.aspx.
- FAQs: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/covid-vaccination-faqs.aspx.
- Additional information and FAQs will be published as they become available.
ACT vaccination information
Other key information
- RACGP and NSW Health COVID-19 webinar –Monday 18 January: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/racgp-webinar.aspx.
- ACRRM COVID-19 vaccination information: https://www.acrrm.org.au/support/clinicians/community-support/coronavirus-support/vaccination-information.
- NCIRS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): https://www.ncirs.org.au/covid-19/covid-19-vaccines-frequently-asked-questions.
- Australian Academy of Science Statement –Pandemic, vaccines and misinformation (plain English statement and video): https://www.science.org.au/news-and-events/news-and-media-releases/.
- Allergic reactions after first dose of Pfizer –MMWR report: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7002e1.htm.
- Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice: https://www.health.gov.au/committees-and-groups/australian-technical-advisory-group-on-immunisation-atagi-covid-19-working-group#publications.
We understand that this may be a difficult time for health professionals on the front line. Please contact one of the following GP Synergy staff members with any questions or concerns. Contacts are provided in the resources below or are available on your GPRime portfolio.
Registrars: Medical Educator, Education Coordinator, Registrar Liaison Officer, Rural Support Officer, Rural Programs Manager
There are counselling services provided through your college:
- RACGP GP Support Program: Three free one-hour sessions with a psychologist face-to-face or by telephone. RACGP members also have access to counselling for traumatic incidents or crisis situations. This service is available 24 hours, seven days a week.
- ACRRM: Complimentary access to ACRRM Employee Assistance Program for immediate confidential counselling support 24/7. Phone 1800 818 728 to access this member service.
Participants: Medical Educator, GP Synergy PEP administrator.
Supervisors: Regional Head of Education, Practice Liaison Support Officer, Supervisor Liaison Officer. GP Synergy has extended counselling support for supervisors until the end of February 2021. For more information please visit https://gpsynergy.com.au/supervisor-covid-19-supports/
Please also take a look at the resources available on the wellbeing and support page of our website.
ACRRM and RACGP also have psychological support packages available as part of your membership.