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RACS is committed to effecting positive change in health care and the broader community by adopting informed and principled positions on issues of public health.
We regularly advocate for these positions across a number of different mediums, including through the media, public campaigns, or by negotiating directly or providing written submissions to both Government and non-Government agencies.
To read about our latest advocacy work, visit our news and media centre.
Draft Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030
In February the Australian Government released its draft National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030. The draft Strategy outlined a series of targets to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads, setting us on the path to achieve Vision Zero (zero deaths and serious injuries) by 2050.
The draft Strategy has three key themes: Safe Roads, Safe Vehicles and Safe Road Use. Safe speeds, which was considered as a fourth theme in the previous strategy, has been highlighted as an overarching theme and is integrated across all of the other areas.
In response, RACS commended the extensive consultation that has occurred in developing the draft strategy and offered our support for the document.
Tasmanian inquiry into rural health services
Earlier this year the Tasmanian Government established an inquiry to investigate health outcomes and access to health and hospital services for Tasmanians living in rural and remote Tasmania.
The RACS Tasmanian State Committee developed a submission to this inquiry which identified the following specific challenges for the service delivery in some surgical specialties.
- No neurosurgical services in the north of the state. All spinal injuries/trauma have to be transported either by air or road to the Royal Hobart Hospital.
- No vascular surgeons in the north of the state. As a result acute vascular patients presenting at Emergency Departments in the north of the state are be managed by a general surgeon.
- Shortages of specialist otolaryngology, head and neck surgeons across the state, particularly in the public system. There is a very long wait for outpatient appointments and elective surgery waiting lists.
- There is also a long waiting list for urology elective surgeries. This is particularly evident in the north of the state. Recent retirements and a lack of younger Fellows available to fill the urology workforce gaps has exacerbated this problem.
Accreditation standards for podiatric surgery
Regulation of podiatric surgery is not the responsibility of the Australian Medical Council (AMC) and the Medical Board of Australia, rather it is the responsibility of the Podiatry Accreditation Committee, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), and the Podiatry Board of Australia. The Podiatry Accreditation Committee is currently carrying out a consultation on draft revised professional capabilities and accreditation standards for podiatry and podiatric surgery.
The Australian Orthopaedic Association and the Australian Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) have long been critical of the standards of the profession of podiatric surgery, and they made a joint submission. Considering these associations’ expertise and strong interest in this subject in RACS’ submission we deferred to them to provide a full critique of the proposed capabilities and standards.
However, in our submission we did make known the RACS view that the AMC is the most appropriate body for assessing whether podiatric surgery training programs meet clinical and surgical standards, given that it performs this function for all other surgical education and training programs.
View the submission.
RACS has continued to engage with government regarding telehealth in the first quarter of 2021. In late February the Commonwealth Department of Health invited RACS to respond to set of options, proposing different ways of funding telehealth via the Medicare Benefits Scheme over the long term. The Department’s main concern was to reduce telephone telehealth in favour of video telehealth, due to costs concerns. RACS sought the input from the specialty societies and associations in developing our response.
RACS’ preferred model would see the current 50 per cent telehealth fee loading reduced, but a rural loading maintained for consultations to rural areas. Where reimbursements reduced for phone consultations RACS would support the maintenance of full reimbursements for phone consultations for elderly or disadvantaged patients and those in areas with poor connectivity.
Following RACS’ submission RACS Councillor Professor Mark Frydenberg represented RACS in roundtable discussions between the Department, the Australian Medical Association, and several other medical colleges. The views of the other medical stakeholders were broadly similar to RACS. Although the Commonwealth Government has since announced that the current telehealth arrangements will continue until 30 June this year, discussions are continuing about funding arrangements beyond that time.
Separately, led by Professor Frydenberg, RACS provided two submissions to a consultation looking at appropriate technical standards for telehealth platforms.
Updates and advocacy on titling issues
In late 2019 not long before their focus turned to COVID-19 Australian health ministers announced they would undertake ‘consultation on which medical practitioners should be able to use the title 'surgeon'. With this process in mind RACS decided to reconsider the issue, and in February 2021 endorsed a new position on who should be able to use ‘surgeon’ in their title in Australia.
RACS’ new position is that those who are not specialist surgeons should be restricted from using ‘surgeon’ in their titles except if they are a member of a medical profession which has a significant surgical training component in its curricula. Note that this is not the full details of the RACS position.
View a position paper setting out the new position. With this new position confirmed RACS will be engaging with Australian governments as their focus widens beyond COVID-19.
On a separate but related matter RACS is aware that a proportion of Fellows have concerns or are confused about the current rules around titling, particularly as it relates to surgical scope of practice. Thus, in late February RACS leadership met with the leadership of AHPRA to discuss titling issues. It was agreed at that meeting that AHPRA and RACS would discuss the possibility for future collaboration, including the possibility of developing a joint communication and education campaign regarding titling issues.
As a fellowship based organisation, RACS commits to ensuring the highest standard of safe and comprehensive surgical care for the community we serve through excellence in surgical education, training, professional development and support.
RACS position papers and guidelines are developed by expert working groups with broad consultation with key stakeholders. Learn more.
RACS is committed to working with our partner organisations and stakeholder groups to effect positive change in health care and the broader community.
Please email the RACS Advocacy team if you would like to inform us about any issues that you think we should be aware of, or contribute to our advocacy efforts in any way.