A 23-year-old single mother with an infant lives in a rural town. During the COVID-19 pandemic she presents to the general practitioner (GP) with an unintended pregnancy. She has just started a new relationship but has not used any contraception since giving birth to her son. She is around seven weeks pregnant and decides to have an abortion. She finds out about medical and surgical approaches from a friend and decides that medical abortion seems easier and less costly. When she asks her GP about it, he says that he doesn’t know much about medical abortion and doesn’t know of any GPs in town who provide it. He advises her that she would need to attend a private clinic about eight hours’ drive away for a surgical abortion. Unfortunately, money is scarce and, due to a lack of available childcare and concerns about COVID-19 transmission, she is unable to coordinate someone to care for her son. So, the pregnancy continues.
In response to such issues of access, exacerbated by community displacement from natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic – and to provide GPs, practice nurses and community pharmacists with support, access to training opportunities, and a national database of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) and early medical abortion (EMA) providers – the SPHERE NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women in Primary Care has launched an important research project: the Australian Contraception and Abortion Primary Care Practitioner Support (AusCAPPS) Network.
The AusCAPPS Network has been informed by a knowledge-exchange workshop with key industry, professional, government and non-government organisations, held in February 2021, and was launched in July 2021. The primary objective is to increase the availability of LARC and EMA services in Australian primary care. Secondary objectives are to: increase the number of GPs certified to prescribe EMA; increase the number of pharmacists certified to dispense EMA; increase the rates of prescription of intrauterine devices, implants and EMA; and improve primary care practitioners’ knowledge, attitudes and provision of LARC and EMA.
The AusCAPPS Network is a national, multidisciplinary, secure and free online space about providing LARC and EMA care – the first of its kind in Australia. The site facilitates discussion and provides members with access to clinical experts from Family Planning NSW and Sexual Health Victoria, to provide support and answer questions. The discussion forum allows clinicians to post questions such as ‘For clinicians who provide contraceptive implant services, what do you use as your first-line option for prolonged or frequent bleeding?’ Peers and clinical experts can provide advice and share their experiences, such as the use of telehealth for EMA services during COVID-19. Other evidence-based activities on AusCAPPS include resources, guides, webinars and podcasts.
To support issues of community displacement from natural disasters and isolating from COVID-19 infection, opportunities for access to remote/online support and guidance for clinicians are now more important than ever. The AusCAPPS Network features a unique user database of members, developed for use by Network members, that enables connection with other providers and creates opportunities for clinicians to bolster local LARC and EMA services. For example, members can connect and partner with a pharmacist to support contraceptive counselling or dispense EMA in an area patients have evacuated to.
AusCAPPS is supported by an extensive partner and advisory network that includes the University of British Columbia, the University of Sydney, La Trobe University, Family Planning NSW, the University of Sydney, Marie Stopes Australia, the Centre of Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association, among many other key stakeholders.
To join the AusCAPPS Network, visit medcast.com.au/communities/auscapps.
For more information, email [email protected]