General practice accreditation process on hold

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

30/04/2020 3:02:11 PM

Requirements to renew accreditation under the National General Practice Accreditation Scheme have been updated.

Empty waiting room
‘The Commission is totally understanding of the challenges that general practices are facing,’ Dr Louise Acland said.

‘As far as the Commission is concerned, there’s no pressure on anyone to engage in any specific accreditation activities and PIP [Practice Incentives Program] payments are ongoing.’
That is the message 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 Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission), wants to make loud and clear.
Recognising the pressures on GPs as central players in the pandemic response, the Commission has updated the National General Practice Accreditation (NGPA) Scheme requirements.
As of 25 March, all accreditation to the RACGP’s Standards for general practices (5th edition) (the Standards) will be maintained until further notice from the Commission.
‘So for practices that were due to have an onsite assessment, those assessments were cancelled until further notice on the understanding that practices of course continue what they do, business as usual, to maintain their current level of work and practice to meet the Standards,’ Dr Acland told newsGP.
Under the usual three-year accreditation cycle, general practices have 12 months before the expiration of their certificate to register with an agency to commence the process of renewal.
But for the time being, Dr Acland says there is ‘no need for practices to actively engage with that process’.
Accreditation certificates
Accreditation certificates will not be reissued by the Commission until the pandemic enters the recovery phase, at which time new certificates will be issued with their revised expiry date.
Maintaining registrars
General practices and regional training organisations that require up-to-date documents to demonstrate their accreditation status so as to maintain registrars are exempt during this period.
‘If a practice’s accreditation was due to expire and they’re worried that they weren’t going to be able to maintain their accreditation and be able to keep having registrars on the teams, that is not an issue,’ Dr Acland explained.
‘Those practices are able to maintain the accreditation status and maintain their capacity to continue to have registrars.’
Practice relocation
General practices in the process of having their ownership transferred due to relocating are also covered.
As onsite inspections have been postponed, practices that require an accreditation certificate with their new address for Services Australia and have had their PIP payments withheld, will be covered by an interim arrangement developed by the Commission and the Department of Health (DoH).
‘The Commission has come up with an attestation statement whereby those practices can complete it with the business nominee contact saying that they’re going to work to the Standards until that assessment is able to be made,’ Dr Acland said.
‘So it’s a special consideration that’s been put into practice.’
The attestation statement is a legal declaration noting compliance to the Standards. It needs to be completed by a business nominee contact with full legal responsibility and emailed to the Commission for processing. The accrediting agency will then be notified and Services Australia will be advised to release any relevant payments, including any back payments.
Once assessments are reintroduced, general practices must ensure an onsite visit is scheduled within three months.
Remediation activities
General practices unable to meet particular criteria of the Standards for accreditation prior to the pandemic and that have been engaging in remediation activities are not expected to continue doing so during this period.
Practices are not required to notify their accreditation agency.
‘So, again, there’s no pressure from the Commission for those practices to keep going with particular planned activities that they do have in place with their accreditation agencies,’ Dr Acland said.
‘However, just on a practical point, if the practice has any space or interest in continuing with their plan, once all these special conditions are lifted they will find it easier just to pick up the ball when business gets back to usual.’
The Commission has said it will continue to work with the DoH to support the general practice sector. Another update will be issued once the pandemic is in the recovery phase, and notice given for assessments to recommence.
‘The Commission is totally understanding of the challenges that general practices are facing, and with all the new processes that we’ve had to introduce with telehealth and social distancing, and just dealing with the volume of actual and suspect cases. So there’s no pressure at all from the Commission to engage with accreditation processes,’ Dr Acland reiterated.
‘If a practice has a question, they’re welcome to contact our Standards Unit and/or their accreditation agency. But everyone just needs to be comfortable with the fact that they don’t need to be worrying about accreditation activity for the time being.’
Further information is available on the Commission’s website or through the advice centre.
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