General practice accreditation process due to recommence

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

24/09/2020 1:30:20 PM

On-site assessments of the RACGP’s Standards for general practices will resume from 26 October.

Practice waiting room
Assessments under the National General Practice Accreditation Scheme will only recommence for practices deemed to have a low risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The move follows the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care’s (the Commission) decision to put accreditation on hold as of 25 March in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, assessments under the National General Practice Accreditation (NGPA) Scheme will only recommence for practices deemed to have a low risk of COVID-19 transmission.
‘Assessments won’t be conducted at a general practice that has active COVID-19 clusters, or in any state or territory that is currently in lockdown,’ Dr Louise Acland, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Standards for General Practices and Co-Chair of the General Practice Accreditation Coordinating Committee for the Commission, told newsGP.
‘Border restrictions need to be taken into account by the accreditation agencies as well. At this stage, I don’t think they’re planning to do interstate accreditation, but that may change as borders open up.’
To confirm a practice’s risk status, accrediting agencies will work with the Commission and the relevant government health department.
In the interim, any practices deemed to be at high risk will continue to have their accreditation maintained.
The Commission has requested that accrediting agencies prioritise general practices that:

  • have completed an initial assessment and are in the remediation period to address mandatory indicators that were not met
  • were previously scheduled for assessments from March 2020 and have not yet been assessed
  • have completed the Attestation Statement
  • were granted an extension to the accreditation status with special conditions
  • are registered for the Practice Incentives Program (PIP) for more than 12 months.
In the case of PIP-registered practices that have their assessments delayed due to their COVID risk status, Dr Acland assures this will not affect payments.
‘[PIP payments] will continue as normal until the assessment is done,’ she said.
‘The general practices that have maintained their registration for PIP for more than 12 months, the agencies are going to work with them, so they’ll have their assessment as soon as practicable after the recommencement of accreditation.
‘But if a practice that’s registered for PIP is not at low risk – as in, it’s of high risk – then the registration status will be maintained until it’s safe for the on-site assessment to be done.’
To ensure there is adequate lead-time for planning and preparation of assessments, all practices will have an additional 12 months added to their current certificate expiration date. Assessments will be scheduled to commence at least four months before a practice’s revised accreditation expires.
As was the case prior to the pandemic, all assessments will be conducted on site.
Dr Acland said agencies are taking additional precautions to ensure safety, requiring all assessors to have completed additional infection prevention and control training before entering a practice.
‘All assessors have been provided with infection control modules by the Commission that are mandatory for them to have completed before they reengage with the assessment process,’ she said.
‘They will also have to pass a screening checklist to ensure that they have no signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection. That checklist will be put in place by the agency.
‘They are also required to comply with any screening requirement that the individual general practice has in place before they enter the premises.’
Meanwhile, practices that had their remediation activities put on hold on 25 March will also be required to recommence planned activities.
‘Those practices [will] be given up to 90 days – that’s calendar days, so 65 business days – regardless of the maintenance period, to finalise their assessment,’ Dr Acland said.
‘So the number of days remaining in a remediation period for a practice that was calculated 25 March will be added on to the date from 26 October.’
Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, Dr Acland said agencies will work closely with practices to assess safety.

‘If their risk status changes, then the anticipated survey dates they’ve been given by their agency will be changed, if necessary, at short notice to facilitate the safety of the general practice and also of the survey staff,’ she said.
‘And the access to PIP will be re-determined and continued until it’s safe for that survey visit to be done.’
Dr Acland said practices should be reassured that the whole process is ‘safe and that there is flexibility’.
‘The Commission has, from what I can see, gone to great lengths to maintain a sense of safety and risk avoidance with the reintroduction of this process, and the extension of an additional 12 months being added to the current expiry date of the accreditation certification is, I think, a very practical solution to this problem,’ she said.
‘Accreditation agencies will reach out to their practices, but if the practices have any questions they can reach out to their agency, to the Commission, or, of course, they can reach out to us [the RACGP].’
Further information is available on the Commission’s website or through the advice centre.  
For more information or questions about the RACGP’s Standards for general practices, contact the RACGP on 1800 472 247 or email
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