Tēnā koutou katoa

Welcome to the 20th update of the year. More Covid, more measles, more strikes, the new Rural Telehealth service Ka Ora, and more waiting to see what the new government has in store. Never a dull moment!


Key points today:

What’s new

  • WellSouth AGM

  • Toitū Takata

  • Awanui Southern – Strike Notice

  • New Rural Telehealth service ‘Ka Ora’ launched

  • Measles Update

  • National Cervical Screening Programme Information Update

  • Ukraine Health Initiative – refreshed web resources

  • AIR Cutover Date Confirmation

  • IMAC – Clinical Comms Centre Update

Opportunities to be involved

  • Seeking a General Practitioner to be a member of WellSouth’s Clinical Governance Group.

  • Attention Dunedin (and surrounding) practices – 4th year Med Student placements

  • Invitation from Dunedin School of Medicine to discuss Invercargill  General Practice placements

  • Primary care representative sought for the Southern Endoscopy Users Group

  • Dunedin NZWIM (New Zealand Women in Medicine) Group­­

  • Join the new online peer support group for RN prescribers

  • Survey: Antidepressants and Pregnancy – University of Otago Study

Upcoming training and webinars

  • The last of the GPNZ Inbox Management Webinar mini-series

  • ACC Webinar: How to complete an ACC45 injury claim form

Other general information

  • GPNZ October Activity Report

Covid-19 updates

  • Increase in deaths related to COVID-19 in the Southern region

  • Updates on RAT distribution



What’s new

WellSouth AGM

Notice of Annual General Meeting (AGM) 

The Annual General Meeting of WellSouth will be held:

Tuesday 14 November 2023, 12:30pm

At our Dunedin Office, Level 2, 333 Princes Street Dunedin.

Please RSVP and/or send any apologies by 13 November to:



Toitū Takata – our new Long Term Conditions Programme

Toitū Takata Practice Nurse Workshops continue to be held around the region providing an introduction for nurses prior to Toitū Takata becoming available in early 2024. Workshops have been held in Cromwell, Oamaru, and Dunedin. These have been well received with lots of good conversations and ideas generated about caring for those living with long term conditions. Further workshops are being held in Invercargill, Gore and Dunedin later in November. These Workshops are now full, however we intend to offer further Workshops in early 2024, including providing the content online for those who have been unable to attend a Workshop in person.

As discussed at the workshops there are approximately 28,000 people living in Otago and Southland who will meet the criteria for Toitū Takata. WellSouth is working with a nationally defined budget for this programme which has not increased for several years. Unfortunately this means it is not possible to provide funding for this entire number of patients and practices will be allocated a number of funded ‘spaces’ on Toitū Takata. These spaces have been calculated based on the eligibility criteria for Toitū Takata and the practice demographics. As a practice, you will be able to invite those people you think will most benefit, to take part in the programme. Letters will be sent to practices in the next two weeks advising of the allocation of ‘spaces’ on the programme.



Awanui Southern – Strike Notice

Awanui Labs have received a notice from APEX of intended strike action by its members on Friday 17 November or Monday 20 November 2023.

Please see here for the date and impact of the strike in your area.


New Rural Telehealth service ‘Ka Ora’ launched

Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora are pleased to announce that Ka Ora Telecare Limited (known as ‘Ka Ora’) has been awarded the contract to deliver the national rural clinical telehealth service over the next three years. 

The Ka Ora network brings together three existing health organisations, Reach Aotearoa, Practice Plus and Emergency Consult into one delivery network, bringing extensive experience and a proven track record of working nationally, in rural New Zealand and with Māori, Pacific and whaikaha/disabled people. 

The freephone 0800 service will provide after-hours clinical telehealth care (5.00pm – 8.00am) on weekdays, and 24 hours a day on weekends and public holidays. The service is staffed by kaiāwhina, nurses, GPs and emergency medicine specialists. The service will provide access for all rural people whether they are enrolled or unenrolled with a general practice. Although the service is subsidised by Te Whatu Ora, a patient co-payment will be charged. Under 14s will remain free, and those on Community Services Card or who are 65 years or older will pay $19.50. 

The new service went live on 8 November. Ka Ora will be communicating with rural general practices directly about the service and its availability.  

The full announcement news item is available here: https://www.tewhatuora.govt.nz/whats-happening/news-and-updates/new-rural-clinical-telehealth-service-set-to-support-rural-communities-across-aotearoa


Measles Update

Just a reminder, that Te Whatu Ora has advised of a measles case in Taranaki, who travelled internationally and via Auckland while infectious.
Public Health Service teams are working to identify contacts, given the large number of people who may be potential contacts of the case. Please remain vigilant for people who may present with measles symptoms. Information about any locations of interest related to the current case will be updated on the Te Whatu Ora website here once they are available. 

National Cervical Screening Programme Information Update

As part of the continued improvement of HPV Primary Screening, the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP) will restart sending some notifications to participants from the new NCSP-Register (NCSP-R) from this week. As a result, those services working with priority groups (such as those who are un and under-screened) may notice an increase in queries and/or an increase in screening.

The NCSP-R is now a population-based register which enables notifications to people who are eligible for cervical screening but are not yet enrolled in the National Cervical Screening Programme. Notifications are integral to welcoming participants to the Programme, providing clarity on the options available to them and how to opt out if chosen.

Key points to note for the go-live of letters are set out in the linked document.

Please email screening@health.govt.nz if you need any support or have questions about NCSP-R notifications.

For any other general queries please contact HPVScreen@health.govt.nz


Ukraine Health Initiative – refreshed web resources

As you will be aware, over the last year Special Ukraine Visa holders have been eligible for a voluntary, one-off funded health assessment focused on TB screening, catch-up immunisation and supporting their integration into Aotearoa New Zealand’s primary care system. There are two pathways for Ukrainian arrivals to access this one-off assessment: via general practice and Healthline.

As of 25 October 2023, there have been 1,566 Visas approved and 794 Visa holders arrived in New Zealand.

For new arrivals, language can be a significant barrier to service access and uptake.
This programme is ongoing. To improve access and uptake, Te Whatu Ora worked with Dr Olga Dubnytska, a general practitioner, to deliver a video presentation about the health assessment as part of a community, now a web resource available from the link below.

Te Whatu Ora also worked with the Ukrainian community leaders to refresh the web resources in Ukrainian, Russian and English. The web resources for health professionals are accessible at: https://www.tewhatuora.govt.nz/for-the-health-sector/health-sector-guidance/free-health-assessment-for-2022-special-ukraine-visa-holders/


AIR Cutover Date Confirmation

The AIR programme is happy to confirm the date for cutover to the Aotearoa Immunisation Register (AIR) is 25 November 2023. A letter is attached confirming the date, outlining what cutover means, what people will need to do and where to find more information about cutover. 

The AIR Webinar for Southern General Practices was held in October.  If you were unable to join the webinar, you can watch the recording linked below to learn more about the Aotearoa Immunisation Register (AIR) going live and what to expect. 

Loren Shand Programme Lead for the National Immunisation Programme and the AIR Engagement team presented the update, followed by a Q&A with the WellSouth and AIR teams.

The Webinar video (and Transcript) is now available via the following link:

AIR Webinar for Southern General Practices-Preparing for Cut Over November 2023-20231009-Meeting Recording.mp4 


IMAC – Clinical Comms Centre Update

The Immunisation Advisory Centre is launching a new Clinical Comms Centre platform for its 0800 IMMUNE phone and email service.  

The new platform will collect information about the calls and emails we receive, allowing us to improve our service, our education content and our understanding of the challenges the workforce faces.  

It will ensure that all data and communications about our clinical advice remain secure and traceable.  All phone calls and emails will be managed as ‘cases’ within the new system. 

Full details available here.



Opportunities to be involved


We are seeking a General Practitioner to be a member of WellSouth’s Clinical Governance Group

At WellSouth, we are committed to continuously improving the safety, quality and equity of services provided to patients and their whanau/families. This requires strong, transparent governance of all aspects of our clinical activities.

The Clinical Governance Group (CGG) is a sub-committee of the Board and takes a strategic focus to clinical governance to ensure equitable, high-quality health care is provided in our district. Aspects of the four pillars of clinical governance – engaged effective workforce; consumer engagement and participation; quality improvement, equity and safety; and clinical effectiveness across the services WellSouth provides and contracts for, are reviewed cyclically through our workplan. 

We have a vacancy for a General Practitioner member, due to a resignation. We meet monthly, and from next year that will be on the second Thursday of the month from 8-10 am, by Teams.  If you are interested, please contact me at carol.atmore@wellsouth.org.nz for more information.


Attention Dunedin and surrounding practices – 4th year Med Student placements

Message on behalf of the General Practice and Rural Health team, Dunedin School of Medicine:

As we advised some weeks ago, the dates when 4th year Medical Students will have scheduled placement time with GPs in 2024 are as follows:

  • Group One: 26/02 – 22/03/24

  • Group Two: 29/04 – 24/05/24

  • Group Three: 15/07 – 16/08/24

  • Group Four: 16/09 – 11/10/24

We would like students to spend around 16 half-day sessions (or equivalent) on placement and could afford to fund up to 20 sessions. But we would also like to involve as many practices as possible in the education of our students, even if their involvement is only at the level of a small number of sessions.

If you have any feedback to offer us about how these plans could be improved, please do let us know: gprural.admin@otago.ac.nz.

We will be in touch again in due course with a draft of the Evaluation form we will need completed for each student. Our intention is to amend this to make it less onerous to complete.

For further details read the full letter here.


Attention Invercargill and surrounding practices: Invitation from Dunedin School of Medicine to discuss General Practice placements

Message on behalf of the General Practice and Rural Health team, Dunedin School of Medicine:

Please join members of staff from the Dunedin School of Medicine at the Southland Hospital to discuss Medical Student placements in General Practice. This is a key factor in addressing the unfolding GP workforce crisis and your help could make a difference.

When: Wednesday 22nd November at 6.30 p.m.

Where: Otago Medical School Campus, Ground floor, Learning and Research Building, Southland Hospital.

In person attendance is preferred, Zoom option available. 

Please attend if you can, even if you don’t usually host students. You are welcome to invite your Practice Manager.

Please RSVP to Stephanie at gprural.admin@otago.ac.nz.

For further details please read the attached invitation letter, or poster.


Are you interested in being a primary care representative for the Southern Endoscopy Users Group?

Dr Kyle Hendry, the Gastroenterologist and Associate Lead for Endoscopy is are primary care representation for their Endoscopy Users Group meetings. These meetings are currently monthly and last about an hour and are available via teams. If you are interested, please contact Kyle directly at Kyle.Hendry@southerndhb.govt.nz


Dunedin NZWIM (New Zealand Women in Medicine) group

Exciting news – the NZWIM (New Zealand Women in Medicine) group is being reignited right here in Dunedin! The approach is to keep things simple and efficient, so they are introducing an opt-in mailing list for those interested in joining the community.

If you'd like to be a part of the group, please take a moment to complete this very brief form to subscribe to the mailing list:



Join the new online peer support group for RN prescribers

A new online peer support group has been established for RN prescribers working in primary/community care in Southland and Otago.

The meetings will be held virtually via Teams every fourth Thursday from 12.30 – 1.30pm.

All RN prescribers (including community prescribers and RN prescribers in primary and specialty teams) and trainee RN prescribers are welcome.

The meetings will enable an informal opportunity for RN prescribers to share cases, updates, initiatives, and support each other.

If you are interested in joining please contact Kate Norris (WellSouth Professional Nurse Advisor, kate.norris@wellsouth.org.nz) so that you can be added to the invite list.
The first meeting will be 7th December at 12.30pm.


Survey: Antidepressant use during pregnancy – University of Otago Study

The University of Otago is undertaking research regarding the use of antidepressants in pregnant women/people and what influences their decision to continue or discontinue medication during pregnancy.   

As part of this research, they are asking NZ registered General Practitioners to take 10 minutes to complete the anonymous survey (approximately 10 minutes duration) below.
Participation is entirely voluntary, and as a thank you, participants can choose to enter a draw to win one of four $50 gift vouchers. 
Please refer to the attached information sheet for further information regarding the study and contact details should you wish to discuss this.

The survey can be accessed by following the link below:



Upcoming training and webinars


The last of the GPNZ Inbox Management Webinar triptych

The final GPNZ inbox management webinar on November 22, 12.30pm – Medico-legal perspectives

To register, click here.


ACC Webinar: How to complete an ACC45 injury claim form

Wednesday 15 November, 12pm – 12.30pm

ACC are hosting a 30-minute webinar from 12.00pm on Wednesday 15 November to explain how to complete an ACC45 injury claim form.

Having the correct information is key to getting the right cover and support for your patients.
This webinar will clarify what you need to include and why it’s important.

Register for the webinar.


Other general information


GPNZ October Activity Report

Attached is the GPNZ monthly activity summary for October.



Covid-19 updates


Increase in deaths related to COVID-19 in the Southern region

A recent spike in COVID-19 deaths is a timely reminder that COVID-19 is still circulating in the community and still poses a threat to our older populations and those with compromised immune systems.

From mid-July to mid-October Southern averaged around 1 death a week from COVID-19 but in the last three weeks we have sadly averaged over 6 deaths a week, recording 19 deaths in total.

Please discuss and encourage COVID-19 booster uptake with your eligible patients and encourage all patients eligible for anti-virals to request and use them. By doing these two things you could be helping save lives of people in your community.



Updates on RAT distribution

The following is the latest info I have received from Te Whatu Ora about RAT distribution into next year:

  • The provision of RATs by pharmacies has been extended to February 29th 2024.

  • RATs will continue to be provided to primary care, ARC and hospitals until the end of February 2024.

  • RATs will not be supplied to the public or sectors/providers from 1 March 2024 –work has commenced regarding considerations for the approach to access RATs for those eligible for antiviral therapies following 1st March 2024.

  • Pharmacies will no longer be reimbursed for the distribution of masks from 1st November, as per the recent comms that were distributed.

  • Pharmacies will be able to invoice for masks that they have distributed in October. Pharmacies may continue to order and distribute masks through central supply, if they wish to continue to hand out to the public with RATs, however they will not be reimbursed for this.

  • Welcome packs will cease to be provided to international travellers on December 31st. International arrival testing advice from 1st January 2024 will be the same as the general public.


So maybe this will be the last time I include Covid info in the update – yeah right!


So as we start the wind-up towards the Christmas wind-down, I hope you are all taking time to look out for friends and colleagues, to check in to make sure they are ok. This is often a stressful time of year for people, and we want to make sure that we all make it through to the new year.


This photo I saw on Princes St the other day says it all:



 Ngā mihi nui