RACGP setting the example for standards of general practice

Neelima Choahan

8/06/2018 2:48:38 PM

An international journal has recognised the RACGP’s process of setting professional standards for general practice.

The Standards were developed with the purpose of protecting patients from harm by improving the quality and safety of health services.
The Standards were developed with the purpose of protecting patients from harm by improving the quality and safety of health services.

The RACGP is setting the benchmark for developing standards to promote quality in general practice, with an international journal publishing an article on the process.
Oxford University Press has published ‘A process for developing standards to promote quality in general practice’, detailing how the RACGP developed the recent fifth edition of the Standards for general practices (the Standards).
Dr Michael Civil, co-author of the journal article and former Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Standards for General Practices, welcomed the news.
‘The article reinformed how robust the process in developing the standards is … the format, the structure and the way that we developed the standards, the way we seek feedback and consultation from members of our profession from external stake holders,’ Dr Civil told newsGP.
‘It basically confirms and gives more clarity and more strength to the argument that we are doing the right thing in the nature that we have approached developing the Standards.’
The development of the fifth edition of the Standards took four rounds of workshops and two pilots over a period of 32 months. A total of 152 individuals and 225 stakeholder groups participated in the development of the Standards, which was published in 2017.
The process was led by an expert panel made up of 10 GPs with clinical, research and academic experience, as well as a practice nurse, a practice manager and a consumer.
Five existing members of the panel had also been involved in the development of previous editions of the Standards. Panel members were from most Australian states, and practice locations included urban, regional and rural sites. The clinical expertise of the panel included general practice, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, and emergency medicine. Five members of the panel were also accreditation surveyors with experience in the assessment of the standards in practice.
Consultation and feedback was sought on the existing fourth edition of the Standards – current issues impacting on the delivery of general practice and the proposed new structure for the fifth edition. This included informal commentary from stakeholders, but also more formal discussion in workshops held across Australia.
Dr Civil, who works as a GP in Kalamunda, Western Australia, said the process has evolved considerably since the first edition of the Standards was published close to two decades ago.
‘Initially, the RACGP was quite prescriptive,’ he said.
‘We basically said a practice needed to do a particular thing to meet the requirements of the Standards, whether that was developing a patient information sheet or whether it was an approach and a structure on how you sterilise instruments involved in minor operation.
‘Whereas, what we have done in the latest additions is tried to allow a little bit more flexibility for practices.
‘So instead of saying to a practice, “You need to have a patient information sheet and you need to include XYZ”, what we say is, “It is important for you as a practice to communicate with your patients … how do you get across the information?”.’

Mike-Civil-hero-(1).jpgDr Michael Civil says having the article published is affirmation of the approach taken in developing the Standards.
Dr Civil said the new Standards emphasise what needs to be done but, where appropriate, leave it to individual practices to meet the requirements and intention of the Standards based on what was suitable for them.
‘It is seeking feedback, trying to be inclusive, responding to comments and feedback that we have from any aspects of our profession and considering, firstly, whether the feedback is relevant and applicable to the general practice setting, and if it is, how can we incorporate that and include in the Standards,’ he said.
Dr Civil said setting the Standards was challenging work, but he felt ‘privileged’ the article in Oxford University Press has been published.
‘A lot of people worked very hard in writing the Standards,’ he said.
‘It’s not exactly a highly entertaining or sexy aspect of general practice, but it is a really, really important aspect. And it’s great that we have that recognition that what we are doing is regarded and appreciated and recognised within the wider medical community.’

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