GP Urgent Care

Information for GP Urgent Care Network Pilot member general practices.

As a member of the Network, if there have been any significant changes to your practice, including changes in the contact details that you provided WA Primary Health Alliance when you first joined the Network, please let us know.

 

News and Alerts

Questions

What is the General Practice Urgent Care Network Pilot

The General Practice Urgent Care Network Pilot is a joint partnership between the Department of Health (Western Australia) and the WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), with involvement from the Australian Medical Association (Western Australia) and the WA Faculty of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). It is an important component of the Western Australian State Government’s Putting Patients First Policy and will provide better integrated quality healthcare for patients close to where they live. Many people – adults and children – who have an urgent but not life-threatening injury or illness go to an emergency department (ED) when they are not able to be seen by their regular general practitioner (GP). The General Practice Urgent Care Network will provide an alternative by enabling people living in Metropolitan Perth, Bunbury and Busselton, to book a same day appointment on-line with a general practice that is participating in the pilot, has available appointments and is close to where the person lives. Not only will this utilise unfilled appointments, but it will also support continuity of care for patients in the primary care setting.

People Needing Urgent Care

Most people understand the types of presentations that need urgent care but are not life threatening.  If their GP is not available, they know that if they go to an ED they will receive high quality care but may have to wait a long time to be seen. Consumer research undertaken by the Department of Health WA found that this decision to go to ED was also informed by cost, distance and time.   However, if people were able to find a general practice that could provide a timely appointment that was close to where they lived, they would prefer to go to a GP. The General Practice Urgent Care Network can provide care between a standard GP and ED. People seeking a GP for urgent care will be able to find and ‘click to book’ appointments that are available with the General Practice Urgent Care Network through the National Health Services Directory. People who contact healthdirect Australia, if assessed by the triage nurse as needing urgent care will be provided with a link to book themselves or alternatively transferred  to the practice to make a booking if they don’t have internet access. General practices not part of the Network will be able to direct their patients requiring urgent care to participating practices through the National Health Services Directory.

Hours of Operation

The General Practice Urgent Care Network will operate seven days a week and will cover at a minimum the peak periods from 8am to 8pm. Data from the Department of Health (Western Australia) shows that patients presenting to public metropolitan EDs for GP Type [1] injuries and illness present between 8am to 8pm, seven days a week with no peaks or troughs within this time and day range. While practices will set their own hours, the expectation is that across the Network, the hours between 8 am to 8 pm seven days a week will be covered.

Promotion of the Network

A public awareness campaign, funded by the Western Australian Government, will provide information about the Network and how people can access it in the geographic areas where it is being trialled. The campaign will also provide information to assist people in assessing when it is appropriate to seek an urgent care appointment.

What can patients expect from practices that are part of the General Practice Urgent Care Network? 

  • Practices are accredited by RACGP (AGPAL, QPA, ACHS).
  • Listed in the National Health Services Directory, have appointments available that can be booked online and be able to accommodate long appointments where clinically appropriate.
  • Have signage that identifies them as a participating practice in the Network and be able to manage unscheduled/walk-in patients for those patients that do not use the online booking/appointment systems.
  • Have a treatment room and facilities for suturing and plastering and access to radiology and pathology with prearranged agreements with these services to ensure urgent patients are managed promptly, including the reporting of results.
    • The most common presentations are likely to be musculoskeletal injuries, skin and subcutaneous lacerations and wounds, gastrointestinal illnesses and illnesses of the eyes, ear, nose and throat. The treatment of these injuries or illness may require minor procedures (as clinically appropriate).
  • Minimal out of pocket expenses. This includes diagnostic services if the patient requires further investigations. Patients are informed about any out of pocket costs they will encounter prior to receiving care.  It is acknowledged that participating practices will have a range of billing models in place.
    • Patients receiving urgent care within a public ED are likely to receive care with no out of pocket expenses. In order to ensure patients, receive urgent care in the most appropriate setting, the factor of cost needs to be minimised or removed.
  • Have an effective working relationship with the nearest ED and be able to support patients into and out of the public health system to ensure continuity of care.
  • Be handed back to their regular GP. GPs are expected to have a process in place for this hand over. (WAPHA is in the process of developing a standardised hand over form to be used to provide feedback to the patient’s regular GP and the evaluation of the Network Pilot).
  • Participates in the evaluation of the Network pilot.

Support for General Practices Participating in the Network Pilot

The pilot recognises that GPs, practice managers, nurses and reception staff may need opportunities to refresh their urgent care skills.   The RACGP WA and WAPHA will deliver a series of workshops over the life of the pilot which will focus on skills and topics as identified by general practices. These training opportunities will attract Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points. The training workshops will be provided at no cost. Members of the Network should check News and Alerts on this site for information about up and coming events.

Evaluation of the Pilot

The General Practice Urgent Care Network Pilot will run for 18 months and is scheduled to commence in early September 2019. The Collaborative Health Analysis and Statistical Modelling (CHASM), which includes the University of Western Australia (UWA) Division of General Practice, will be undertaking a formal evaluation of the pilot. The evaluation process will be agile and iterative, ensuring the optimal service model is delivered to meet demand and provide equitable and accessible healthcare in the community.  This approach will also allow new GPs and practices to join the Network throughout the 18-month process, should they not be ready at the commencement of the pilot. Participating general practices will be required to provide de-identified data about urgent care episodes to the evaluation.  Practices will extract this information from the handover/evaluation form which WAPHA is developing, which once available, will be found in the resources section of this website. Members of the Network are encouraged to provide feedback on how the operation of the pilot is progressing.  Please provide your comments in the Contact Section and through the evaluation surveys. Training events will also provide opportunities for feeding back on the operation of the pilot. [1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare definition

Key resources

GP urgent care skills update workshops

12 Oct – Trinity of Hampden, Crawley 30 Nov – Bunbury (location TBC) Register now

Common reasons why a person may need urgent care include:

  • abdominal pain
  • infections including urinary tract, respiratory and wound infections
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abrasions and minor lacerations
  • acute neck or back pain
  • constipation
  • dermatological issues including bites and rash
  • diarrhoea
  • fever
  • minor eye and ear problems
  • minor fractures, dislocations, sprains and strains
  • sport injuries
  • stings and bites.

Interested in becoming part of the General Practice  Urgent Care Network Pilot?

Review the two documents listed below before completing the Network Application Form which you will find in the Resources/Forms section:

  • Common presentations likely to be seen by the General Practice Urgent Care Network; and
  • General Practice Urgent Care Network Optimal Service Model description.

The first round of applicants for the Network have been selected. A second and third round of applications will take place on the following dates:

  • Open on 1 October and close 30 October 2019.
  • Open on 1 January and close 31 January 2020.

Complete the Network application form and attach a copy of your Accreditation Certificate.  Provide comprehensive responses to ensure your application can be assessed appropriately. Every application will be assessed against the essential criteria and criteria outlined in the Network Optimal Service Model. The assessment and approval process will be conducted by the General Practice Urgent Care Network Pilot Project Governance Committee consisting of representatives from WAPHA, Department of Health (WA), the WA Faculty of the RACGP and the AMA (WA). General practices that meet all of the criteria will be notified of their acceptance into the Network Pilot and WAPHA’s Primary Health Liaisons (PHLs) will commence working with the practice. For information and assistance, email urgentcare@wapha.org.au

Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I join the Network?
  • Your practice will have the opportunity to fill vacant appointments.
  • Your urgent care skills will be maintained and enhanced.
  • Your relationship with EDs will be strengthened.
  • Your practice will be recognised as a Department of Health (WA) and a WAPHA endorsed provider of urgent care.
  • You will be ensuring patients are supported by primary care where appropriate thereby reducing the need for ED presentations.
How are urgent care appointments scheduled?
  • An online booking service through the National Health Services Directory will allow patients to schedule their urgent care appointments themselves. The system will allow them to sort based on whether the practice bulk bills or not.
  • This system will be integrated with your practice’s appointment system via HealthEngine or HotDoc
  • HealthEngine and HotDocs will be in contact with practices to assist them in setting up these appointments within their systems.
  • People who contact healthdirect Australia, if assessed by the triage nurse as needing urgent care will be provided with a link to book themselves or alternatively be transferred to the practice to make a booking if they don’t have internet access.

Work is also being progressed to integrate the Network with healthdirect Australia’s triage service.

What if patients contact the practice directly?
  • Patients may contact your practice directly by phone or by walking in.
  • If you have appointments available ensure that the patient can wait until they are seen.
  • If they need to be seen immediately and your practice cannot respond, they should be directed or sent to the nearest ED.
  • If you do not have any appointments and the patient is assessed as needing urgent care by a GP, check with the National Health Services Directory to determine if there is an available appointment through the Network.
  • If there are no appointments available through the Network or if the patient cannot access the appointment and they need to be seen immediately then the patient should be directed or sent to the nearest ED.
What do you expect my practice to do when patients show up, who should have gone to ED? Who owns the risk?
  • Regardless of how a patient contacts your practice for urgent care, your internal triage protocols should be followed.
  • If they contact healthdirect Australia, the triage nurse will assess whether the patient should go to an ED.
Where a patient presents to ED and is a cat 4-5, will they be seen and treated or encouraged to attend a Network practice in the first instance?
  • Patients who present to an ED, regardless of their categorisation, will be seen by an ED.
  • Information about the Network will be displayed in the waiting rooms of all Hospitals that fall within the pilot catchment areas – Metropolitan Perth, Bunbury and Busselton – so that patients are aware that there is an alternative to an ED for urgent care.
What if a patient presents who does not require urgent care?
  • See them as you would any other patient. Information about the number of people who make an appointment for urgent care who did not require this level of care will inform the evaluation of the Network Pilot.
What extra equipment and consumables will I need to purchase?
  • This is for your practice to determine.
  • No funding will be provided to meet any costs the practice may incur in providing urgent care.
  • If your practice needs to purchase any additional equipment or consumables, record this so that it can be captured by the evaluation of the pilot.
What are the expectations in relation to pathology and radiology services?
  • Letters of agreement will be in place between your practice and pathology and radiology providers to ensure that when urgent care patients are referred they are seen and managed promptly, and reports are provided back to you in a timely manner.
  • Your providers know when your referrals are for an urgent care patient, when they need to be seen and whether bulk billing should be considered.
My Practice Nurse needs to refresh their urgent care skills.
  • Workshops, at no cost, for practice nurses and doctors will be offered.
  • Keep an eye on the News and Alerts section of this website.
What is the cost to the patient who attends an urgent care appointment?
  • Patients who book an urgent appointment with your practice through the National Health Services Directory (NHSD) or healthdirect Australia will be informed of the billing policy of your practice including gap payments.
  • Patients will need to be advised of any additional out of pocket expenses at the time they attend your practice.
  • No funding is available to practices for their participation in the Network. The provision of urgent care is considered a normal part of general practice
Following an urgent care session, GPs must hand the patient back to their regular GP. What if a patient can’t get a follow up appointment with their regular GP for several weeks?
  • Suggest the patient sees another GP at their usual general practice.
  • If this is not possible, consider seeing the patient yourself until the patient is able to secure an appointment with their regular GP.