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Flu Season

Over 120,000 people in NSW were struck down with flu in 2017 & 2018.* NSW has had unusually high influenza activity over the summer and this has remained high in March 2019.^​

Therefore, we encourage you to help prevent influenza where possible through immunisation this winter.

We have launched an educational campaign to raise awareness in our community about the importance of being vaccinated. This campaign includes a video that will be playing in some practices in region, as well as through cinemas and online. 

Let’s work together to increase the numbers of people vaccinated and reduce the spread of flu this season. 

*    ^


Flu Vaccinations

While you should encourage most people to be immunised, the following groups are particularly vulnerable to flu, and for them it’s free of charge:

  • people aged 65 years and over
  • pregnant women – factsheet and poster
  • children from 6 months to under 5 years old
  • Aboriginal people
  • medically at risk groups.

Important information is also available about how to protect your baby from whooping cough – vaccinate for free when pregnant, see poster for promotion.

Important Information

Influenza virus strains included in the 2019 seasonal influenza vaccines are:

  • A (H1N1): an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09 like virus
  • A (H3N2): an A/Switzerland/8060/2017 (H3N2) like virus
  • B: a B/Colorado/06/2017 like virus (not included in the trivalent vaccine) 
  • B: a B/Phuket/3073/2013 like virus

Additional guidance is available from NSW Health or the Department of Health as to which vaccinations are most appropriate for your patient the different patients you may see. You can also access the Flu Vaccine Pathway on our HealthPathways website.

In 2019, influenza vaccines available under the National Immunisation Program and NSW State programs are latex free.

For more information about this visit the TGA website or the NSW Health website

Identify your key patients 

We would like to encourage all practices to focus on those patients most vulnerable in the lead up to winter. The following steps can be used as a guide by you and your practice staff to be proactive to minimise the impact of the flu season.

You can also download a printable version of this step-by-step guide as a checklist. 

1. Identify your vulnerable patients

Identify your patients who are most vulnerable during the winter period. These are the patients most likely to present at hospital, with chronic conditions.

Action: Use the documents below to assist you to identify your most vulnerable patients. 

2. Immunise vulnerable patients

Referring to the information provided above, ensure these vulnerable patients are appropriately immunised. 

Action: Guidance is available from NSW Health or the Department of Health as to which vaccinations are most appropriate for the different patients you may see. You can also access the Flu Vaccine Pathway on our HealthPathways website.

3. Complete a GP Management Plan or conduct a review

Ensure the patient's GP Management Plan and Team Care Arrangements (if relevant) is up to date and implemented.

Action: Download templates from our Practice Support page or utilise your clinical software to undertake a GPMP. Find instructions on how to do this in Best Practice and Medical Director

4. Sick Day Action Plans

A Sick Day Action Plan (SDAP) is an action plan that supports patients with chronic conditions to:

  • self-manage their care, and
  • know who to contact if they become acutely unwell or just feel sicker.

SDAPs enable patients with chronic conditions to identify and intervene quickly when they are experiencing new or increasing symptoms. This decreases the chance of significant deterioration in their health.

General practices and GPs should consider routinely incorporating these plans as part of a patient’s documented management plan. Local research into preventable hospitalisations is finding that inadequate use of sick day action plans is a major contributor to preventable hospitalisations.  

Tips for developing a Sick Day Action Plan with patients and carers

  • Develop the plan collaboratively with patients and carer
  • Ensure the plan is clearly written at the right level of literacy  – ask the patient for their own language and use this
  • Include phone numbers for medical help in the plan. Make sure these are readily available and the patient knows exactly who to call at what stage of their deterioration.
  • Familiarise the patient with the signs and symptoms of illness that can safely wait 24 hours for medical attention as opposed to signs and symptoms that warrant immediate emergency care.
  • Discuss what possible actions the patient and carer can do safely prior to urgent medical review. Ensure the patient and carer understands these actions and are confident to do them.
  • Consider what other illnesses the patient may have when developing the plan. There is often an overlap and interaction between physical and mental health in long term conditions.
  • Self care plans can be useful for mental health conditions as well. They aim to help a patient focus on their strengths and feel less overwhelmed by their condition. Being better tuned in to their own early warning symptoms and having a structured plan aims to empower self care.  
  • Talk about the SDAP regularly during consultations and follow up to ensure the plan is still meeting the patient’s needs and they are still ready and willing to follow the plan.  Patient satisfaction is a key element for helping the patient stick to their SDAP. The plan must be relevant to the person for them to want to use it.
  • Review the plan with the patient and carer after an episode of illness to determine
    • Was the plan implemented and steps followed properly?
    • What parts of the plan worked well?
    • What parts were not implemented and why?
    • What (if anything) needs to change to ensure the plan works in the future?

Note: Sick Day Action Plans are available in Rich Text Format (RTF) and PDF versions through HealthPathways. You can get access to HealthPathways online.

5. Update My Health Record

Ensure an updated Shared Health Summary is uploaded to your patient’s My Health record to enable other clinicians to access a patient's relevant health information when needed. Shared Health Summaries should include allergies, regular medications, medical history and immunisation status. 

Action: Learn about using My Health Record with your patients. 

6. Educate your patients and practice staff

Simple things help prevent infection transmission. We have the following resources available for your patients and staff in the practice:

  • 'Winter is Coming" Brochures and Posters
  • "Winter is Coming" video - use our video in your waiting room
  • Hand Washing Guides and Posters
  • The Importance of the “T” zone Poster
  • Coughing Guides and Posters
  • A 'Glitter Bug in Practice' demonstration in your practice. This demonstration will show what ineffective hand sanitising and/or hand washing looks like
  • Enable easy access to tissues, alcohol hand rub and a bin for patients to use

Action: Order our resources through our Practice Support Online Order Form.

7. Advanced care planning and Ambulance Authorised Care Plan

For relevant patients, consider completing an Authorised Ambulance Care Plan as part of Advance Care Planning.

Advanced Planning Workshops will be delivered across all LGAs between June and November 2019.

Action: Read more about Advance Care Planning (or End of Life Care) and you can download a Rich Text Format Authorised Care Plan here.

8. Utilise Secure Messaging and update the PHN with your electronic messaging details

How secure messaging works

Secure Messaging Delivery (SMD) is a real-time point to point secure transfer of information between health professionals within the healthcare sector, including general practitioners, specialists, hospitals, and allied health professionals. It is more secure than other methods of communication as it is encrypted and requires authentication. 

How much does it cost?

To send and receive secure messages is FREE for General Practice however does incur a fee for allied health and specialist providers.

What is an EDI? 

This is an identifier for the practice (think of it like an email account) that healthcare providers will use and give out to make sure they can receive secure messages. This is made up of 6 letters or numbers.

The benefits of SMD to healthcare providers may include:

  • Prevents unauthorised interception of the message content which is mostly clinical information. 
  • Reduced use of paper correspondence - less time chasing clinical information and investigations.
  • Confidential patient correspondence is only seen by treating clinicians (no scanning necessary).
  • System notification of successful message delivery – know when a message has been received and decrypted by the intended receiving organisation.
  • Potential to improve the timeliness of receipt of clinical information, and therefore the quality of care provided.
  • Direct delivery into the Dr’s inbox in the clinical software

Secure Messaging and the Winter Strategy

Secure messaging is a requirement of the ePIP. HealthLink is free for General practice, Check out their HealthLink website.  

Hot Tip: To encourage and notify other providers that your practice uses secure messaging you could place the following at the bottom of your referral documents by editing them in letter writer:

"Our Practice prefers to receive correspondence via HealthLink our secure messaging vendor. Our EDI is                                   ."

The PHN collects practice electronic messaging details to provide to the Local Health District which assists you to receive Electronic Discharge Summaries for your patients from the hospital. 

Action: Update your electronic messaging details with the PHN. Update your referral templates to include your EDI. Update you address book by using the healthlink directory. You can talk to your practice support officer for assistance.

9. Need help?

If you want additional information or support to introduce the winter strategy into your practice, contact your Practice Support Officer. 

Action: Call us on 4708 8100 or contact our Practice Support team online

Consumer awareness

We have launched an educational campaign to raise awareness in our community about the importance of being vaccinated. This campaign includes a video that will be playing in some practices in region, as well as through cinemas and online. 

Your Practice Support officer can deliver posters and/or brochures for your practice to support this educational campaign.

Or you can order them online from our practice support team.

Let’s work together to increase the numbers of people vaccinated and reduce the spread of flu this season.