09 April 2024

We’re seeking your feedback

SWSPHN is considering creating a toolkit with information about free local exercise and weight management programs, weight management apps, online education and resources, and support to quit smoking and, alcohol and other drug use.

While patients may be advised to lose weight, or to exercise more, perhaps as recommendations of the 40-to-49 or 45-to-49 health assessments, many may not be able to afford to see a dietitian or pay for a gym membership, or they may be unsure of where to start or what options are available to them.

We’d like to hear from GPs and practice nurses about whether this resource would be helpful to your patients.

If a toolkit is of interest, please respond to alyssa.horgan@swsphn.com.au with answers to:

  • would this toolkit be useful?
  • what would you like to see in this toolkit?
  • what would be the best format for the toolkit? (ie HealthPathways, hard copy, PHN website etc)
  • are there other recommendations you make to patients following the 40-to-49 and 45-to-49 health checks which could be included in this guide?
  • any other feedback
20 February 2024

Two GPs with extensive experience in providing opioid dependence treatment (ODT) have encouraged their colleagues across South Western Sydney to take up financial incentives which aim to better equip primary care providers to support patients to overcome addiction.

SWSPHN is offering remuneration of up to $20,000 to eligible practices for training of two or more GPs or nurse practitioners, practice nurses and frontline staff per practice ($6,000), and the development of referral pathways with SWSLHD Drug Health Services and evidence the training has been put into practise ($14,000).

An Expression of Interest for participation in the Whole of Practice Capacity Building Initiative for Opioid Dependence Treatment opens today (21 February) and closes on 15 March.

Dr Tuan Bui (pictured) from Moorebank Family Medical Practice said he’d been prescribing opioid replacement medicines for several years because he wanted to make it as easy as possible for his patients to access the care they needed.

“I feel if I didn’t prescribe, I wouldn’t be providing a holistic service,” he said. “I have a good relationship and rapport with my patients, and I already look after their physical health, social and mental wellbeing. This is just one aspect of the healthcare that we provide.”

Dr Bui said he was lucky to have the support of a good team at his practice.

He said prescribers could also expect comprehensive, A to Z support from SWSLHD Drug Health Services, including access to Clinical Nurse Consultants and telephone support from the GP Drug and Alcohol Advice and Support Service.

“There are also courses I would recommend, such as the Opioid Treatment Accreditation Course.”

Dr Vince Roche from Southern Medical Centre at Moss Vale said he began prescribing opioid replacement medicines when one of his patients asked if he could prescribe methadone for his heroin addiction – that was 36 years ago.

“He is still my patient … and still on methadone,” he said.

“GP prescribing of ODT is much more convenient and civilised for patients and much cheaper for the healthcare system. It is part of the comprehensive care that GPs can give (eg mental health, chronic and complex care, paediatric care, geriatric care etc).

“Why would we isolate alcohol and other drugs (AOD) from all the comprehensive womb-to-tomb care we give to our patients?”

SWSPHN’s financial incentives initiative comes in response to the Federal Government’s changes to ODT which have made opioid replacement medicines available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule. It is anticipated that as private dispensing clinics close due to the changes, GPs will play a greater role in prescribing ODT medications.

Further information about the initiative is available on our website, including details about training for GPs, practices nurses and frontline staff, and how general practices will work with, and be supported by Drug Health Services.

When asked what he’d say to general practices hesitant to become opioid replacement medicine prescribers due to concerns about stigma or the behaviour of patients, Dr Bui said:

“It doesn’t matter what the patient is like – as long as they’re not difficult or experiencing crisis – you are helping your patient to overcome a problem which is quite difficult to do and has a very wide impact on all aspects of their lives and their family,” he said.

“Once you put your patient on the treatment, you can see a very rapid change to their life. They stop the drug-seeking behaviour, they stop searching for money and they are able to look after themselves.

“In a way it’s like seeing a surgeon for a cataract operation and in the next day or so the patient can see.”

Dr Roche encouraged general practices to try prescribing to one or two patients at first.

“Most of my ODT patients are like all other patients in my practice, courteous, polite and grateful,” he said.

Dr Roche said he “absolutely” encouraged other practices – small, medium and large group practices – to take up the incentives: “Upskill and gain resources!”, while Dr Bui agreed, emphasising the importance of communicating with your team.

“My team is extremely supportive and very professional,” he said.

“You will be able to provide a service to help your patient turn their life around.”

Express your interest
20 February 2024

Expressions of interest are sought from practices within South Western Sydney to take part in the Whole of Practice Capacity Building Initiative for Opioid Dependence Treatment.

Are you interested in developing your practice’s ability to support patients requiring opioid dependence treatment? This unique opportunity offers attractive remuneration of $20,000 and enables practices to gain access to free training and ongoing support.

The initiative is offered by South Western Sydney Primary Health Network (SWSPHN) to GP practices, to maximise their response to Australian Government changes to the PBS in relation to Opioid Dependence Treatment (ODT) medications and treatment.



South Western Sydney PHN is committed to supporting local clinical pathways into primary care to improve outcomes for patients receiving Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) treatment. Ongoing SWSPHN AOD initiatives include promotion of service integration, educational for general practitioners and practice nurses and commissioning of treatment services.


About the initiative

SWSPHN seeks expressions of interest from South Western Sydney GP practices interested in implementing this whole-of-practice initiative. Successful practices will participate in educational opportunities, develop referral pathways for stable patients and be provided with ongoing support from South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) Drug Health Services.


Incentives up to $20,000 per practice are available for completion of activities as follows:

1. One-off payment of $6,000 for completion of all educational opportunities:

  • Completion of Opioid Treatment Accreditation Course (OTAC) for two or more GPs or Nurse Practitioners per practice, including generous CPD hours. Placements will be provided by SWSLHD Drug Health Services.
  • Free training and opportunities for one or more practice nurses to work at the top of their scope in treatment of patients on ODT and other AOD presentations. Training will be provided by SWSLHD Drug Health Services with allocated CPD hours.
  • Free half day training for one or more front line staff to improve confidence and knowledge to work with patients on ODT, and patients with general AOD presentations. Training will be provided by Lives Lived Well.

2. One-off payment of $14,000 for completion of activities to develop referral pathways with SWSLHD Drug Health Services, and evidence that training has been put into practice:

  • Work with SWSLHD Drug Health Services to transition patients to and from tertiary services into primary care, where stable patients are referred to primary care and patients requiring stabilisation are referred to Drug Health Services.
  • Engage in supports offered by SWSLHD Drug Health Services, which include access to medical officers, networking and support from Drug Health Services for practice nurses, in-practice support from Drug Health Service Clinical Nurse Consultants and telephone support for GPs and practice nurses from the GP Drug and Alcohol Advice and Support Service.


Eligible practices

  • Are located within the South Western Sydney region
  • Have two or more GPs and/or Nurse Practitioners committed to participating in the initiative
  • Have one or more practice nurses and front of practice staff committed to participating in the initiative
  • Must have electronic patient health record systems and business intelligence tools
  • Commitment to increasing numbers of patients receiving ODT


Further information and lodgment of EOI:

  • EOI opening date: Wednesday, 21 February 2024
  • EOI closing date and time: 5pm, Friday, 15 March 2024
  • Review by: 22 March 2022
  • Advise successful applicants by: 29 March 2024
  • Commencement: Mid-May 2024

Enquiries and further information:
Val Burge
SWSPHN Mental Health and AOD Programs Coordinator,
Ph: 4632 3057
Em: val.burge@swsphn.com.au


EOI - Whole of Practice Capacity Building Initiative for Opioid Dependence Treatment

"*" indicates required fields

This practice has two or more GPs and/or nurse practitioners committed to participating in the initiative*
This practice has one or more practice nurses and front of practice staff committed to participating in the initiative*
This practice uses an electronic patient health record system and business intelligence tool*
This practice has a commitment to increase the numbers of patients receiving Opioid Dependence Treatment*


Next steps

SWSPHN will review each EOI on an individual basis and will contact selected practices to discuss next steps. Unsuccessful practices will receive notification via email.

05 February 2024

Notice of upcoming EOI


SWSPHN will soon call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for an initiative which will provide incentives totalling $20,000 to general practices in South Western Sydney to develop the capacity of staff to provide opioid dependence treatment (ODT) to stable patients.

The initiative comes in response to the Federal Government’s changes to ODT which make opioid replacement medicines available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule.

It is anticipated that as private dispensing clinics close, GPs will play a greater role in prescribing ODT medications.

Practices in the initiative will receive incentives to participate in:

  • educational opportunities for GPs, nursing and practice staff
  • the development of referral pathways
  • and engage with South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) Drug Health Services to access support in treating stable patients
Incentives for participating practices include:
  • $6,000 for completion of educational opportunities
  • $14,000 to participate in the development of referral pathways and engage with SWSLHD Drug Health Services

Please discuss your interest in this initiative within your practice and watch out for the release of the EOI in Practice Pulse on Wednesday, 21 February.

29 January 2024

Important changes are underway to place stricter controls on e-cigarette and vaping products.

These include:

  • No more disposable vapes from overseas: As of 1 January 2024, a ban was placed on importing disposable single use vapes. This means, even if a patient has a prescription, they will no longer be able to import disposable single use vapes online from overseas.
  • No more personal vape imports: From 1 March 2024, the Personal Importation Scheme will cease for all vapes. After this, importers will need an import licence and permit.
  • Changes to access pathways: Special Access Scheme Category C is now available enabling medical and nurse practitioners’ access through the notification pathway.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is updating the Supporting smoking cessation: A guide for health professionals.

Draft interim guidance is now available and includes updated access pathways to help patients and young people stop vaping and smoking.

Find out more

Source: Health Update for Primary Care newsletter

19 October 2023

Our services, innovations, collaborations and commitment to improving the health of our community was on display today at SWSPHN’s first showcase since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Centring around the theme of ‘strengthening Medicare’, a room of about 50 people including PHN Board members, PHN member organisations, PHN staff, service providers, committee members and GPs, gathered in the Dharawal Room at Campbelltown Catholic Club. 

We heard first from keynote speaker, Dr Stephen Duckett, Chair of the Eastern Melbourne PHN Board and former member of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, about the challenges facing general practice and primary care in the future. 

Dr Duckett told the gathering there had been a steady decline in the number of medical students choosing general practice. 

“What this means is that the world of primary medical care in 10 years’ time, 15 years’ time or 20 years’ time is going to be quite different from what it is today,” he said.  

“There’s going to be more patients, and either the same, or a smaller number of general practitioners, so we’re going to have to think about different ways of doing things.” 

SWSPHN staff then highlighted a small sample of some of the great work we do, including our innovative iRAD and New to General Practice Nursing projects, and an example of collaborative commissioning. 

Kristen Short, Director of Innovation and Partnerships, showcased our iRAD interoperability solution which connects health providers who are providing care for the same patient. 

“With iRAD, we just need to consent the patient and the information will flow, and be available once they return to their regular GP,” she said. 

Ms Short said South Western Sydney was the first location in Australia to have true interoperability working “which was super exciting”. 

So far, 85 practices are connected to iRAD, a psychiatrist and after hours clinics, and Ms Short said we were looking to expand locally to add another 35 practices in the next few months.  

“One of my favourite quotes from one of our providers is ‘I can’t do my job without iRAD’, they see so much value in it. 

“We’ve been working very hard for a few years on being able to view hospital information through iRAd. It will be a complete game changer for GPs to be able to quickly see any information if a patient is admitted to the emergency department or hospital.” 

SWSPHN’s Kristina Allen, Clinical Support Team Lead, and Lisa Cerruto, Clinical and Quality Improvement Officer, gave an overview of the New to General Practice Nursing program which provides support for nurses who are new, returning or transitioning to general practice within South Western Sydney. 

Val Burge, SWSPHN Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs Program Coordinator, followed with a presentation about working with service providers to have a greater impact on client outcomes, giving our work with the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Rendu House clients as an example. 

Stephen Suttie, Senior Operations Manager at Neami National, gave a presentation on the new, SWSPHN-commissioned Liverpool Head to Health Centre, a free, walk-in, mental health and wellbeing support service which opened in August.  

He discussed the benefits of working in partnership with SWSPHN to engage the community through the codesign process to deliver the best service they could. “What we deliver is a service that is there for people when they need it … which is really closely integrated with the community.” 

SWSPHN Chief Executive Officer, Dr Keith McDonald PhD, closed the showcase with an exploration of SWSPHN’s new Employee Value Proposition – A Healthy Community. A Healthy Career. Right here, where you’re really needed – which not only tells, but shows why SWSPHN is a great place to work. 

Watch the staff EVP video 

Following the showcase, Board members met for SWSPHN’s AGM where our 2022-2023 Annual Report, which highlights even more of the significant body of work undertaken by our dedicated and passionate staff during the last financial year. 

Read our Annual Report 


25 August 2023

There is no known safe amount of alcohol which can be consumed during pregnancy.

9.09am on the 9th day of the 9th month is observed every year in recognition of the importance of being alcohol free for the nine months of a pregnancy.

International FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) Awareness Day highlights the risks of prenatal alcohol exposure.

Visit Every Moment Matters for information about FASD.


25 August 2023

Australia is lagging behind its treatment targets for people living with chronic hepatitis B.

ASHM has published a suite of resources to support clinicians at the time of diagnosis to refer patients on to community s100 prescribers.

The resources, launched as part of the ‘Hep B care. It’s primary care, too.’ campaign provide guidance for diagnosing clinicians, including a map to find local primary care prescribers of specialised hepatitis B medicine, as well as practical clinical communications tools to support the referral.

Understanding the available referral pathways is one of the best ways clinicians can support patients with hepatitis B.

Access the resources

01 August 2023

What do the changes mean for me and my patients?

The Australian Government is implementing positive change to Opioid Dependency Treatment (ODT) to make medicines for opioid dependency more equitable and affordable for Australians on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS).

These changes are a win for patients, and are long needed.

Implementation is still progressing and there are logistical issues to work through.

SWSPHN will endeavour to keep GPs up-to-date as further information becomes available.

From 1 July 2023, ODT medicines have become part of the Section 100 Highly Specialised Drugs (HSD) Program.

At the Opioid Therapies Webinar on 30 June, David Laffan, Assistant Secretary, Pharmacy Branch – Department of Health and Aged Care, said:

“The Australian Government has agreed to continue to pay pharmaceutical companies directly for ODT medicines supplied to private clinic and non-other PBS dosing sites until 30 November 2023, and this includes GP clinics that order the long acting injectables directly.

“After 30 November, GP clinics will be able to administer long acting injectables by obtaining supplies from a PBS pharmacy, which is more in line with how the usual PBS operates.

“Transitional arrangements are in place for pharmacies to dispense existing private ODT medicine prescription written prior to 1 July. Patients will not require new prescriptions to be written from 1 July.

“From 1 July, ODT medicines scripts can be written as a streamline authority script for 28 days with two repeats.”

Prescribers will be able to:

  • prescribe ODT medicines for PBS-eligible patients, as per the prescription of other medicines under the Section 100 HSD Program
  • for Methadone oral liquid, prescribe up to a maximum quantity of 4,200 mg (840 mL) with two repeats (the maximum quantity is equivalent to up to a maximum dose of Methadone of 150 mg per day for 28 days)
  • for sublingual Buprenorphine and Buprenorphine with Naloxone, prescribe up to a maximum quantity equivalent to 32mg of Buprenorphine per day for 28 days, with two repeats
  • for injectable Buprenorphine, prescribe up to a maximum quantity equivalent to 28 days (four weeks) with two repeats.

Buprenorphine-containing ODT medicines will be prescribed and dispensed on a per pack basis, Methadone liquid will be prescribed and dispensed on a maximum mL basis per prescription.

Prescribers are encouraged to prescribe only the quantities and repeats which are suitable for the patient’s clinical needs, until their next review.

To prescribe any doses higher than outlined above, GPs will need to obtain PBS Authority Approval by calling Service Australia (1800 888 333) or by using the Online PBS Authority System to obtain an authority number.


Under Section 100 HSD program, ODT medicines can be dispensed from a section 90 approved community pharmacy, a section 94 public or private hospital and a section 92 approved medical practitioners.

What does this mean for patients?

For patients, this change “rights an historical inequity for a group of people that have been marginalised and stigmatised” (Dr Hester Wilson, GP and chair of RACGP Specific Interest Group in Addiction Medicine, Opioid Therapies Webinar, 30 June).

Eligible patients will pay the PBS-copayment to access their treatment and the amount paid will contribute towards their PBS Safety Net threshold. 

This means a patient will pay $7.30 or $30 (depending on concessional status) per 28 days rather than the current out of pocket costs of $30 to $75 per week for ODT scripts. Patients currently receiving free Buprenorphine injections, though, will now be charged a co-payment of $7.30 or $30 (depending on concessional status) per 28 days.

Additional private dispensing or dosing fees cannot be charged by section 90 community or section 94 hospital pharmacies under the PBS.

Note that Close the Gap (CTG) co-payment discount will NOT apply at this stage.

What does this mean for pharmacies?

To support in-pharmacy and take-away dosing, a community pharmacy program for ODT medicines will be established, including on-site pharmacist administration of injectable Buprenorphine.

Source: Australian Government, Department of Health and Aged Care, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme – Updated 10 July 2023

Watch these webinars:

A SWSPHN Community of Practice – Changes to Opioid Dependence Treatment Prescribing – Online Meeting will be held on Thursday, 10 August at 7pm.

This is an opportunity to improve your understanding of the new requirements and discuss the changes with local ODT subject matter experts, including GPs.

This is an RACGP session for 1.5 CPD hours.

Register for webinar

Find out more:

07 July 2023

The Centre for Alcohol and Other Drugs, NSW Ministry of Health, is seeking GPs to participate in paid online focus groups about GP engagement with the Opioid Treatment Program (OTP).

The OPT provides life-saving treatment to people living with opioid dependence. The aim of these focus groups is to gather a diverse range of perspectives from GPs who have had experience or are interested in engaging with the OTP.


If you are…

  • A GP primarily working in general practice, AND
  • Have an interest in the OTP, OR
  • You are already prescribing OTP medication for up to five patients

the centre wants to hear from you!

How to Register

The centre will be conducting four, one-hour, online focus groups at the times listed below:

  • 6pm, Monday, 17 July
  • 7.30pm, Tuesday, 18 July
  • 7.30am, Thursday, 20 July
  • 12pm, Friday 21 July

Click here to register. You will then receive a calendar invitation confirming your attendance.


GPs who participate will be paid at the rate of $120 for the hour. Participation is limited to one focus group per person.


Please note: participation in the focus groups is confidential, and all data collected will be anonymised and used solely for research purposes.

For more information about this project, contact Kristina.Gavrilovic@health.nsw.gov.au