The President's Message - 24 April 2015

24 April, 2015

The President's Message — 24 April 2015


RACP Congress 2015 is fast approaching and I look forward to seeing many of you as we discuss, debate and chart a path forward on the five key topics: end of life care, the health of Indigenous people, the treatment of children in detention, supporting the ageing physician and gender identity. Alongside College Fellows, I look forward to showcasing our strong policy and advocacy work starting with the launch of the RACP Refugee Health and Asylum Seeker Health Position Statement on Monday, 25 May 2015. During the End of Life Care sessions, Chair of the College’s End of Life Care Working Group, Associate Professor Bill Silvester, will present the findings from the survey of College members on this important topic along with advance care planning. President of the Paediatric & Child Health Division, Dr Nicki Murdock will also launch the RACP Newborn Screening Position Statement.

While we are together in Cairns, I am also planning to brief you on the Board’s plan to modernise its operations and its focus on delivering the best training and member services we can.

I know change can be challenging and, at times, contentious, but I am convinced we are on a path to a more vibrant organisation that is able to draw on our greatest asset – the expertise and passion of you, our Fellow and Trainee Members.

Three reasons why accreditation is a great step forward

The Australian Medical Council (AMC) decision to grant the College the maximum term of accreditation, six years, is great news for our members.

It is also a clear demonstration of how our College, through the good will and collaboration of Fellows, trainees and staff, can respond to the changing regulatory environment in which we operate.

Accreditation to 31 March 2021 means:

1. Recognition that the RACP is meeting standards and is entrusted to train specialist physicians. 

2. Certainty for members that our College will continue to provide high quality education and training programs for physicians of the future and continuing professional development programs for Fellows. 

3. Assurance for patients, the community and employers regarding the quality of RACP trained physicians and paediatricians.

The AMC accreditation process involves a continuous cycle of quality improvement and the College will need to address a number of conditions and recommendations during this accreditation period.  Members can be assured that the College has plans in place to respond to these requirements.

Welcome to our Ethics Committee

An independent external review of ethics in the College informed the appointment of an Ethics Committee to provide the Board with expert advice in areas that raise ethical considerations in the context of policy and advocacy, education, and research and financial investment. More information on the Committee can be found below.

Please join me in congratulating the successful applicants.

Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge that tomorrow is Anzac Day; a day where we unite to remember those who sacrificed so much.


Together with other health professionals, physicians from Australia and New Zealand have played a vital role in our war history over the past century, caring for the injured both on the battlefield and back home. On behalf of members, I would like to thank physicians for their professionalism and dedication that has helped so many.


Laureate Professor Nicholas Talley

President, RACP




RACP Congress 2015 is an opportunity for delegates to expand their knowledge across five key platforms –Indigenous health, the ageing physician, end of life care, gender identity, and refugee health.


To support these dynamic and innovative topics, a diversity of beliefs and opinions from speakers will encourage delegates to debate and engage in challenging and thought provoking discussions.


Palliative and end of life care presentations cover a spectrum of topics and opinions from advance care planning, to caring for the needs of patients at end of life, to the rights for end of life choices for children. Professor Bill Silvester, from the College’s End of Life Care Working Party, will present the findings from the end of life care survey on behalf of the group.


Other key program highlights include the opening address by Ms Elaine Pearson, Australian Director of Human Rights Watch, and the plenary address by Mr Paris Aristotle, CEO of the Foundation House on refugee health. I also look forward to launching the RACP Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Position Statement; a significant piece of work undertaken by members of the RACP Health of Asylum Seekers and Refugees Working Party.


Don’t miss out on hearing from our local and international speakers including:

• Dr Catherine Yelland PSM – the Ageing Physician and Competence

• Dr David Levitt and Dr Grant Ferguson – Ethics of Providing Paediatric Care in Detention

• Dr Steve Bolsin – Changing the Behaviour of Doctors (Ferguson-Glass Oration)

• Associate Professor James Ward –A Forgotten Epidemic: sexually transmissible infections and blood borne viruses among the first peoples of Australia (Cottrell Memorial Lecture).

• Professor John Whitehall – Neonate and rural health (Howard Williams Oration)

• Mr Paris Aristotle – Refugee Health: the impact for physicians (Plenary Address)


RACP Congress also presents a unique opportunity for our Fellow and Trainee Members to showcase their research projects and for recipients of RACP Foundation Awards to share their projects with delegates. The RACP, through the College Research Committee, remains committed to supporting the research endeavours of members through grants, scholarships and fellowships, which are primarily targeted at early career researchers and are aligned to the College Research Strategy.


If you have not yet registered to attend, you only have until Sunday, 10 May to do so. I look forward to seeing you there.




Following an independent external review of ethics in the College, the Board decided in July 2014 to appoint an Ethics Committee. Reporting to the Board, the Committee will reflect the importance placed on such matters within the College, and provide the Board with expert advice in areas that raise ethical considerations in the context of policy and advocacy, education and research and financial investment. A selection panel comprising four Board members managed an Expression of Interest process in late 2014, and assessed the knowledge and expertise of 24 high calibre applications at the start of the year. Following an exhaustive process, the Panel’s recommendations were considered by the full Board during its meeting in March 2015.


The Board appointed Dr Greg Stewart, a Director of the College and the current President of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine, who brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in Public Health and Ethics, as the Chair of the Ethics Committee.


I am pleased to announce that the Board also made the first round of appointments of six College Fellows and trainees, all of whom have now been approached to formally join the Ethics Committee. Congratulations to our appointed members, the College values your commitment and willingness to contribute to this important area.


The Ethics Committee also will have positions allows for up to three non-College members, and a separate process will commence shortly to seek and appoint these members.


I wish to take this opportunity to thank all the other members who took the time to apply to this Committee. The standard of applicants was extremely high, which reflects the interest in ethical issues within the College, and pleasingly made the Selection Panel’s job very difficult. I hope there will be other opportunities for those with an interest in ethics or related areas to be able to apply their skills and expertise for the benefit of our College and members.




Recently, Dr Tamara Mackean, Chair of the College’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee (ATSIHC) was invited by the Senate’s Select Committee on Health to present a public hearing on their current inquiry into ‘improvements in the provision of health services, including Indigenous Health [and rural health]’.


Dr Mackean highlighted the key points from the College’s earlier submission to the inquiry, particularly the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in the health system; the need to focus on improving access to specialist medical care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; and, the importance of implementing the Government’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (NATSIHP).


In addition, ATSIHC recently partnered with the Paediatric and Child Health Division’s Policy & Advocacy Committee to develop a College response to the Department of Health’s draft National Framework for Health Services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Families.


In line with the College’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee priorities and the College’s support for the Close the Gap and Recognise campaigns, Sydney staff attended a breakfast event on Close the Gap day. At the event, a significant number of staff pledged their support to close the gap by 2030 via the ‘30 for 2030’ challenge. If you would like to sign the pledge, please visit the Oxfam webpage.


The College is a member of the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee and is committed to ensuring equitable health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia.


Please contact Paul Wright, Senior Policy Officer, at for more information on the College’s support for closing the gap.






This week the Federal Government announced a Review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and the establishment of the Primary Health Care Advisory Group.  Our College welcomes this announcement and particularly the appointment of two front-line clinicians to head up the reviews.


This is a great opportunity for us to encourage the government to look more broadly at the health system for better integration of health care, and ensure changes are led by evidence and clinician expertise.


This announcement highlights the importance of the work that will be undertaken by our newly established Integrated Care Working Party, which I am confident will help inform future health policy and system changes.


This week I was also filmed for a video to be used as part of the Choosing Wisely Australia (CWA) launch next week.  This initiative complements the work we are doing with EVOLVE and is similarly focussed on identifying low-value practices - more targeted at primary care and the consumer.


Our College is proud to be a foundation partner in CWA and acknowledges the important role it will play in the broad movement to improve and strengthen the quality of care across the health system by reducing the use of unnecessary or ineffective tests and interventions.


The work we are doing on this front is important – it is part of a larger, international drive to change and influence the culture of medical practice. It will also enhance the conversations on clinical care in our profession and between physicians and their patients.


 I encourage you to continue the valuable work you are doing with your respective societies because, as physicians, we can make a significant difference to the future of healthcare in Australia.






The April issue of the Internal Medicine Journal is now available online. Key articles include:

• Management of AL amyloidosis

• Understanding and improving use of allopurinol

• Vitamin B12 and long term use of acid lowering agents

• Hypomagnesaemia linked to depression

• Cystic fibrosis and abnormal liver function

• Hyperlactataemia and acute metformin overdoses




The April issue of the TGA Medical Devices Safety Update is now available online.




EOI: Practice Review Support Working Group, one additional Australian member, ​closed

The Practice Review Support Working Group (the Working Group) was established primarily to promote practical and useful frameworks for regular practice review (RPR).


RPR is being trialled in New Zealand with the Working Group including strong New Zealand representation. As the Working Group is planning Australian trials of RPR in the future, it is broadening its Australian representation through seeking a nomination for an additional Australian member.


Nominees should be Fellows with experience in the development, implementation and review of performance/practice review processes (even if at the local level) and/or an interest in developing an effective framework (including processes, information and tools) to promote practice audit and review in Australia. The College is keen to ensure that practice review is flexible, valuable and designed to fulfil as many of a physician's audit and review requirements as possible.


The group may meet up to six times a year via teleconference and a maximum of twice a year face-to-face.


For more information please download the Working Group's Terms of Reference. For any questions please contact Michael Pooley on (02) 8247 6203 or




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