Practice Connect #186


11 January 2024

Welcome to this edition of Practice Connect, a fortnightly update for practice managers, nurses and practice administration staff on relevant issues, upcoming events and education.

Acknowledgement of Country 

WA Primary Health Alliance acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Owners and Elders of this country and recognises the significant importance of their cultural heritage, values and beliefs and how these contribute to the positive health and wellbeing of the whole community.

Throughout this newsletter, the term 'Aboriginal' is used to refer to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, unless stated otherwise.



Practice Updates


2024 Practice Assist Yearly Planner

Happy New Year from the team at Practice Assist, we look forward to another year of working with you and your practice team. 

For support with your general practice enquiries, contact the Practice Assist Help Desk or get in contact with your Primary Care Navigator and QI Coach on 1800 2 ASSIST (1800 2 277 478) or 08 6278 7900 or via email

2024 Practice Assist Yearly Planner

To get you started for 2024, the Primary Care Navigator team have created a General Practice 2024 Year Planner that includes important dates to remind you of just some of the following:

  • PIP & WIP quarters
  • Shared Health Summary Uploads
  • Events & Training
  • Practice Connect newsletter publication dates
  • Other consideration for your practice

The General Practice 2024 Year Planner has been created as a fillable PDF that allows you to customise it to your practice needs.



Our Business Management Toolkit has a new look

The Practice Assist Business Management Toolkit page has undergone a review and now has a new look. This page is now in line with our more recently updated pages, and is easily navigated to offer comprehensive resources for all aspects of a strong, viable and sustainable general practice.

Along with our recently released Yearly Planner you will find subject headings covering the following areas:

This page has been designed to also link in with the RACGP 5th Standards for General Practice and indicate which criterion each sub heading relates to.

Visit our new look Business Management Toolkit now for all things related to the management of your practice. We welcome your feedback and suggestions via email to or call 1800 2 ASSIST (1800 2 277 478).


MBS Changes January 2024

From 1 January 2024 there has been several changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). These changes include:

  • Changes to some COVID-19 health measures
  • Cessation of 23 items
  • Indexation of the Extended Medicare Safety Net
  • Introduction of a new co-dependent pathology item
  • Minor administrative policy changes

COVID-19 services

A range of COVID-19 health measures are being extended, including Medicare-subsidised telehealth, vaccine suitability items, pathology, and diagnostic imaging services.

Some COVID-19 pathology items will cease, and others will be amended. These changes are to ensure Medicare eligible patients at risk of severe illness, including older Australians, patients with pre-existing conditions and residents of aged care homes – can access MBS funded COVID-19 pathology laboratory testing.

Item numbers ceasing

Item numbers relating to smoking cessation counselling ceased from 1 January 2024. This includes face to face, video telehealth and telephone item numbers.

Support for smoking cessation can be provided using time-based consultation item numbers. Resources for health professionals are also available through the Quit Centre.

For more information on the changes see MBS Online.



Practice Assist MBS Toolkit Update

Our Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Toolkit has been updated! Bringing together resources and links to MBS information for general practice in one place, our toolkit page aims to make it easy to find what you are looking for.

If you have any queries on the MBS Toolkit page or a suggestion on a topic for us to include, please contact your Primary Care Navigator or Practice Assist.



Are you looking for a free to access clinical, referral (including GPbook Specialist Directory) and health system information resource?

HealthPathways WA helps clinicians easily navigate their patients across WA’s complex healthcare systems by providing guidance on best practice for assessing, managing, and referring patients across Western Australia.

As a health professional, you can also access the following at no cost:

To learn more or to request access visit the WA Primary Health Alliance or the Practice Assist website.


GP Psychiatry Support Line

The GP Psychiatry Support Line is a free phone service connecting GPs directly with psychiatrists who can offer their expert advice regarding the mental health needs of your patients.
GPs may call to discuss: 

  • Medication advice
  • Diagnostic clarification
  • Risk and safety
  • Management planning
  • General professional counsel

Find out more and register online or call 1800 16 17 18. For emergencies please call 000.



New DVA quick tip for health providers on billing for compensation claims

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) has released a new quick tip to assist health providers with understanding the requirements when billing for compensation claims. We understand DVA’s compensation claim process can be complex, especially for busy practices. This new printable quick tip provides guidance on billing for each step of the way.

Learn more here


Immunisation & Cancer Screening


CaLD Ambassador Program Pilot for Bowel Screening

Cancer Council WA has been able to pilot a culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) ambassador program to improve bowel cancer screening rates among Indian-born West Australians.

In Australia, the participation rate of the general population in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program sits at about 40.9%.

Participation rates in certain priority populations including people from CaLD backgrounds are even lower.

Research shows that the lack of engagement with bowel cancer screening may be due to a range of factors, including:

  • Lower awareness of the risk and consequences of bowel cancer compared to other cancers
  • English language difficulties and lower health literacy
  • Difficulties understanding the test kit instructions
  • Different cultural beliefs surrounding a cancer diagnosis

Improving participation in bowel cancer screening is an important step towards early detection and future improved survival outcomes.

For further information on this pilot program click here.


Cancer Screening

Screening is identifying unrecognised cancer or pre-cancer in a population of people who show NO signs of having that cancer.

Cancer screening is an important way to detect cancer early. If detected early, the cancer may be smaller, less likely to have spread to other parts of the body, and more treatment options may be available, meaning that successful treatment is more likely.

Cancer screening tests are usually targeted at a particular group of people who are at a higher risk of a particular type of cancer, to determine if they need to undergo further testing. Cancer screening tests can also find people with early-stage cancer, who have not yet developed any symptoms.

There are currently three free cancer screening programs available in Australia:

Breast Screening
BreastScreen WA invites women aged 50-74 years to their clinic, for a free mammogram every
second year. A mammogram is a low dose x-ray of the breast tissue which can detect cancers as small as a grain of rice, before they can physically be felt by a patient or doctor. Over 75% of breast cancers occur in women over 50 years of age. Conducting screening tests on women younger than 50 years of age is less accurate because breasts are denser at this age, making signs of cancer hard to detect.


Cervical Screening
The National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) offers a free Cervical Screening Test (CST) which looks for the presence of high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) in a collected sample. HPV is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer. Women and people with a cervix aged 25-74 will
be invited by mail every five years to take part in screening. Even those who have had the 
HPV vaccine will still need regular cervical screening.


Bowel Screening
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) invites eligible Australians aged 50-74 to screen for bowel cancer using a simple test at home called an immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT). The iFOBT test looks for tiny traces of blood in poo which may (or may not) be a sign of cancer. A bowel cancer screening kit is sent to the home address of eligible Australians every two
years once they turn 50 years old.


Mandatory reporting to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR)

It is mandatory for all immunisation providers to report all National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccines administered to the Australian Immunisation register (AIR).

Mandatory reporting also includes influenza and COVID-19 vaccines administered.

Immunisation providers who receive and administer other government-funded or private vaccines, should report vaccines administered to ensure individuals have completeness through their AIR immunisation history statement (external site) and their health can be managed

New immunisation providers can find more information on Immunisation provider information and resources.



Pharmacy immunisation expansion program

From 1 January 2024, the Commonwealth Government implemented the National Immunisation Program Vaccinations in Pharmacy (NIPVIP) program in Australia.

Community pharmacies participating in the program will be able to administer National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccines at no cost to consumers.

This program will not cover the costs of state-funded or private vaccines. Pharmacists cannot charge for the cost of a state-funded vaccine.

Community pharmacists will now be able to support the wider immunisation program in Western Australia (WA) by providing vaccinations to eligible cohorts, thus increasing access to vaccination for the WA community.


COVID Updates


New vaccine targeting current COVID-19 strains now available

The Australian Government has approved the use of a new COVID-19 vaccine. The new vaccine provides better protection against the COVID-19 strains currently going around the community.
The new vaccine will be available along with the existing bivalent vaccines. All available COVID-19 vaccines provide strong protection against serious disease.
There are no changes to vaccine eligibility.
If you haven’t had your recommended dose(s) for 2023, the new vaccine is a good reminder to get vaccinated. If you're not sure if you need a booster, talk to your GP.
Read the latest advice from ATAGI here.


Extension of healthdirect COVID-19 GP Video Call to 30 June 2024

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care has extended the healthdirect Video Call COVID- 19 GP Program to 30 June 2024.

GPs are encouraged to continue using this secure video consulting platform which has been purpose-built for primary care settings, in line with the changes to the telehealth MBS items.

A Bulk Billing Consent application is now available in healthdirect Video Call to use online.

GPs in private practice can register here. GPs in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations can register here.

RACGP CPD accredited training in healthdirect Video Call is also available.

Find out more and register here.


COVID-19 Vaccines in Australia - A3 poster

This poster provides key differences between each COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Australia as per the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines, and has been updated to reflect the new variants available: 


Research & Surveys


Share your insights on the impact of Strengthening Medicare reforms

Following the 2023 introduction of the MyMedicare voluntary patient registration system, the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care is inviting general practices to contribute expert opinion to the ongoing evaluation of the Strengthening Medicare reforms.
This will allow the impact of the reforms to be measured over time, building in new policy measures as they come online.
The brief survey comprises multiple choice questions, mainly focused on whether the tripling of the bulk billing incentive on 1 November 2023 has supported your practice to provide bulk billed services to your patients.
Following this initial distribution by the RACGP, WA Primary Health Alliance and other Primary Health Networks, the Department will continue to distribute the survey to general practices quarterly.
Take the survey here by 29 February 2024.
You can find out more on what the Strengthening Medicare changes mean for practices and patients in the attached Fact Sheet and in the MyMedicare Tool Kit on the Practice Assist website .
Contact Practice Assist on 1800 2 ASSIST (1800 2 277 478 or 08 6278 7900) or via email for more information or guidance.


Consultation Open: Have your say on the new Aged Care Act

Consultation on the draft new Aged Care Act is now open.

The Department of Health and Aged Care invites anyone interested in aged care – including older people, their families and carers, aged care providers and workers, researchers and experts – to have their say. 

Fill out a survey, attend a workshop or submit your feedback by 16 February 2024.

Learn more here


Education & Events


Active8 and Better Health Program

Presented by Active8 and the Better Health Program 
Multiple Dates 2024

The Active8 and Better Health FREE evidence-based healthy lifestyle programs are continuing to be delivered for early 2024, in partnership with the WA Department of Health.  

Both programs: 

  • Provide families with weekly support from qualified health professionals
  • Provide practical resources to support healthy behaviour change and interactively weekly sessions
  • Focus on healthy eating, being active and making small healthy habits
  • Are FREE for eligible families 
  • Are delivered either online or in-person at local community venues

2024 program offerings:

Referral options : 

Eligible children and families can be referred to each program by:  



Primary Health Care Nurses Day

Presented by APNA
7 February 2024

In 2024, APNA is launching Primary Health Care Nurses Day (7 February) to celebrate the important work of the 96,000 nurses working outside a hospital setting. People are invited to ‘wear primary colours on Primary Health Care Nurses Day’ to say thank you to these vital health care workers.

Learn more here


Other Webinars, Events & Workshops

BreastScreen WA visit to Paraburdoo
Presented by BreastScreen WA
16 January to 17 January
BreastScreen WA visit to Exmouth
Presented by BreastScreen WA
24 January to 8 February
The 25th Annual Scientific Meeting
Presented by Immunisation Coalition
4 February to 5 February
BreastScreen WA visit to Butler
Presented by BreastScreen WA
12 February to 15 March
BreastScreen WA visit to Denham
Presented by BreastScreen WA
12 February to 15 March
WA Hepatitis B Prescriber Update
Presented by ASHM
13 February
WA HIV s100 Prescriber Course
Presented by ASHM
17 February & 18 February
BreastScreen WA visit to Pinjarra
Presented by BreastScreen WA
18 January to 16 February
BreastScreen WA visit to Onslow
Presented by BreastScreen WA
19 January to 22 January
National HIV s100 Peer Support and Case Discussion Session
Presented by ASHM
6 March
WA Rural Health Excellence Awards - Save the date!
Presented by Rural Health West
16 March
WA Rural Health Conference 2024
Presented by Rural Health West
16 March & 17 March

Practice Assist acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Owners and Elders of this country and recognises the significant importance of their cultural heritage, values and beliefs and how these contribute to the positive health and wellbeing of the whole community.

While the Australian Government Department of Health has contributed to the funding of this website, the information on this website does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government and is not advice that is provided, or information that is endorsed, by the Australian Government. The Australian Government is not responsible in negligence or otherwise for any injury, loss or damage however arising from the use of or reliance on the information provided on this website.