General Practice and Environmental Sustainability

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​On the recent World Environment Day, one of the aims of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is to promote environmental sustainability in the field as the college considers climate change as a public health emergency.

The innovative resource of RACGP referred to as “Greening Up”, is used to inform and support general practitioners in the fight against climate change. The resource also provides information on the following:

  • The impact of climate change on human health

  • What general practitioners and practice staff can do to address climate change and promote environmental sustainability

  • Minimisation of carbon footprint

This resource is available to all Australian general practitioners. It also contains information such as reducing energy consumption, reducing paper usage, considering e-waste, and maximising recycling efforts.

As one of the general practice business tool kits, RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price believes that this is a useful tool for many practices. The role of GPs is not only limited to caring for patients but also for the environment.

Practice Planning Toolkit by the RACGP

Along with the Greening Up - Environmental Sustainability in General Practice, the RACGP also releases the Practice Planning Toolkit.

Also known as the Winter Planning Toolkit, this resource aims to help ensure the safety and health of both patients and practitioners during the upcoming winter months. This toolkit provides the following information: 

  • Preventing and controlling infection

  • Workforce protection and planning

  • The proper patient management process

  • How to manage the risk of cross-infection

  • Health and wellbeing of staff

According to Prof. Karen Price, in the winter months, there is a higher risk of viral infection including common colds, influenza, and the Covid-19 virus. Other approaches aside from this toolkit that can prevent infection and the spread of germs include getting flu vaccinations.

New Government and General Practice

The 31st Prime Minister of Australia, Hon. Anthony Albanese, and the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, are wholeheartedly welcomed by the RACGP. According to Prof. Karen Price, the college has a strong relationship with the Labor health team and she is hoping that this alliance will grow stronger to boost general practice by providing cost-effective health services.

One of Labor’s plans includes investing around $970 million in general practice for care in communities. $750 million of this budget is for “Strengthening Medicare Fund” and $220 million of this budget goes to the improvement of infrastructure such as the following:

  • Upgrading IT systems

  • Upskilling staff

  • Improving ventilation and infection control

  • New equipment purchases

According to Prof. Karen Price, investing in infrastructure is vital for improving general practice. Not only would these motivate exhausted general practitioners and general practice teams but would also benefit the community, especially during this time of the pandemic.

General Practice Quality Improvement Collaboratives

According to The Commonwealth Fund, Australian general practice is among the highest quality in the world. However, due to workforce shortages and fragmented care, many communities in the country fail to access the wonderful services of GPs.

One of the ways to address these issues is the quality improvement collaborative strategy. The country practitioners have deep experience in collaboration through the Australian Primary Care Collaboratives Program (APCC).

Collaboratives are used to enhance capacity for quality improvement through the following approaches:

  • Increased knowledge and skills of GPs and general practice teams

  • Systemic data use

  • Formulation of improvement champions

Collaborators do not only focus on these. Instead, they also help show up other issues that may reduce the quality of service of general practitioners.

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