The below advice is for General Practitioners (GPs) to support the prevention and management of acute respiratory infections (ARI) such as influenza (flu) and COVID-19 for patients with disability, especially people living in a disability care facility or disability group home.

Last updated: 13 July 2022
Download

GPs should develop a patient's comprehensive healthcare plan each year to ensure the right support is provided during winter. GPs can provide online, in-person or in-home consultation services.

People with disability may be hesitant to visit their GP because of the risk of exposure to viral illnesses from other patients in the practice. Consider strategies to help create a safe environment for people who are vulnerable, including:

  • Allocating appointments during quieter periods of the day
  • Reserve a section of the waiting area with increased physical distancing
  • Encourage the use of face masks for everyone entering the practice
  • Develop and review a care management plan

In consultation with their patient, GPs should develop, and annually review, a care management plan. Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), Council for Intellectual Disability and Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and the NDIS Commission have developed resources to support GPs completing annual health assessments for people with disability to identify any medical intervention and preventive health care required.

Billing consultations for care management plan development

Medicare pays for GPs to do an annual health assessment for people with disability and chronic health conditions. Annual health assessments may be done in more than one session.

Supporting access to prevention and treatment

Vaccination

People at higher risk of severe illness are eligible for a free flu vaccination under the National Influenza Vaccination Program. A COVID-19 winter booster is also available. The COVID-19 winter booster should be given 3 months after a first booster dose, or 3 months after a confirmed COVID-19 infection.

Testing

GPs can work with their patients to consider how they can be tested for respiratory viruses quickly. PCR (nose and throat swab) tests can detect multiple respiratory viruses, including influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 at the same time. Rapid antigen testing can also be used to diagnose COVID-19 quickly, however PCR tests are more accurate and should be used for those who are at higher risk of severe illness. Some Local Health Districts and some private pathology providers can do in-home PCR testing. For further information contact your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.

Treatment 

If a person with disability tests positive to COVID-19 they should follow NSW Health's testing positive to COVID-19 and managing COVID-19 safely at home guidance. Most people can manage COVID-19 or flu safely at home. If your patient or their carer is concerned, they may call you.

People at higher risk of severe illness, may be eligible for antiviral treatments. Pre-assessment for anti-viral treatment is recommended to facilitate prompt treatment. Guidance on the use of antivirals is available on the NSW Health website. 

Current as at: Wednesday 13 July 2022
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW