4839.0 - Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/11/2016   
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GENERAL PRACTITIONERS


General practitioners (GPs) are widely used in Australia and are the first point of contact for health issues for many Australians. People access GPs for a variety of reasons including short-term illnesses, preventive health practices and management of long term health conditions. It is therefore important that people are able to access a GP in a timely manner and receive care that meets their needs, both in terms of ease of access and the quality of care provided. This chapter presents data on people who saw a GP in the previous 12 months. Respondents were asked about the frequency of their visits, as well as about the services they had used, waiting times, barriers to accessing care as well as their experience with the GP.

Most people aged 15 years and over accessed a GP in the previous year. The graph below shows that GPs were the most common health service accessed in 2015-16, with eight out of ten people (82%) seeing a GP at least once in the previous 12 months. Dental professionals were the second most common health service accessed (48%), followed by medical specialists (36%). These patterns have remained steady across the seven cycles of the survey (2009 to 2015-16). See Table 1 in Downloads.

Graph Image for Proportion of persons 15 years and over, use of selected health services in the previous 12 months

Footnote(s): (a) Includes dentist, dental hygenist and dental specialist

Source(s): Patient Experience Survey: Summary of Findings



The proportion of people who saw a GP in the previous 12 months has remained relatively stable over the last seven years. In 2015-16, as in previous years, a higher proportion of females than males saw a GP in the previous 12 months (88% compared with 76%). The proportion of people who saw a GP generally increased with age. Seven in ten people (72%) aged 15-24 saw a GP compared with nine in ten people (96%) aged 65 and over. See Table 2.2 in Downloads.

Visits to GPs were also related to health characteristics, with people who rated their health as fair or poor being more likely to see a GP than those who rated their health as good, very good or excellent (96% compared with 80%). Further to this, people with a long term health condition were more likely to see a GP (94%) than those without a long term health condition (70%). See Table 3.2 in Downloads.

The frequency of seeing a GP varied with age and health conditions. Of persons aged 85 years and over who saw a GP, one in three (33%) saw a GP on twelve or more occasions in the previous 12 months, compared with only one in seventeen (6%) persons aged 15-24 years. Those with a long term health condition were about six times more likely to see a GP on twelve or more occasions than those without (17% compared with 3%). See Tables 5.2 and 6.2 in Downloads.

Over two thirds (69%) of persons aged 15 years and over had received a prescription for medication from a GP in the last 12 months. See table 1 in Downloads.

WAITING TIMES

The proportion of people waiting longer than they felt acceptable for a GP appointment has decreased over the last 2 years from 23% in 2013-14 to 21% in 2014-15 and 19% in 2015-16. Females were more likely than males to report waiting longer than they felt acceptable (21% compared with 16%). Persons aged 15-64 were more likely to report waiting longer than they felt acceptable for a GP appointment compared with those aged 65 and over (21% compared with 12%). See Tables 4 and 5.2 in Downloads.

The proportion of people in outer regional, remote and very remote areas who reported waiting longer than they felt acceptable for a GP appointment has decreased over the last 2 years from 29% in 2013-14 to 23% in 2014-15 and 20% in 2015-16. See Table 6.2 in Downloads.

Graph Image for Proportion in outer regional, remote or very remote areas who waited longer than felt acceptable for GP appointment(b)

Footnote(s): (b) Proportion of 15 years and over in the previous 12 months, 2011 Remoteness Area Geography

Source(s): Patient Experience Survey: Summary of Findings



Around one in eleven people (9%) saw a GP for urgent medical care. Of those who saw a GP for urgent medical care, nearly two in three (64%) were seen by a GP within four hours of making an appointment, around one in eight (12%) waited four hours or more but were seen within 24 hours of making an appointment, and one in four (25%) waited 24 hours or more. People living in major cities were more likely to be seen within 4 hours than those living in inner regional areas (67% compared with 53%). People living in outer regional, remote and very remote areas were also more likely to be seen within 4 hours than those living in inner regional areas (63% compared with 53%). See Tables 1 and 6.2 in Downloads.

Graph Image for Proportion of persons seen by GP for urgent medical care within 4 hours of making an appointment(c)

Footnote(s): (c) Proportion of 15 years and over in the previous 12 months

Source(s): Patient Experience Survey: Summary of Findings



BARRIERS

A benefit of the Patient Experience Survey is that data can be collected from those who did not access health services, as well as from those who did. It is therefore possible to obtain information from people who may have needed to access a health service, but did not access this service, and the reasons they did not access the health service.

In 2015-16, of those who needed to see a GP in the previous 12 months, one in twenty five (4%) delayed seeing or did not see a GP at least once because of the cost. This has decreased from 5% in 2014-15. People living in outer regional, remote or very remote areas of Australia were more likely to delay seeing or not see a GP due to cost than those living in major cities (5% compared with 4%).See Tables 4 and 6.2 in Downloads.

Of all persons who received a prescription for medication, 8% delayed or decided against filling a prescription due to cost. People living in areas of greatest disadvantage were more likely to delay or decide against filling a prescription due to cost than those living in areas of least disadvantage (10% compared with 5%). See Table 6.2 in Downloads.

AFTER HOURS GP CARE

After hours GPs provide flexibility and convenience in accessing health care when required. This may alleviate pressure on the wider health system, as people with non-life threatening illnesses or injuries are able to visit an after hours GP instead of visiting an Emergency Department.

In 2015-16, one in twelve people (8%) saw an after hours GP in the previous 12 months. This rate was similar in 2013-14 and 2014-15. As with other health services, more females than males saw an after hours GP (10% compared with 6%). See Tables 1 and 2.2 in Downloads.

People with a long term health condition were more likely to see an after hours GP than those without (10% compared with 6%). Those who rated their health as fair or poor were more likely to see an after hours GP than those who rated their health as excellent, very good or good (12% compared with 7%). See Table 3.2 in Downloads.

People living in major cities were more likely to see an after hours GP than those living in outer regional, remote or very remote areas of Australia (9% compared with 6%). See Table 3.2 in Downloads.

Just over one in five people (22%) who needed to see an after hours GP did not see one at all. See Table 7 in Downloads.

Of those who saw an after hours GP, the type of clinic most visited was a regular general practice clinic (41%), followed by late night clinics (22%) and home visits (21%). The proportion of people who saw a GP after hours through a home visit has increased from 17% in 2014-15 to 21% in 2015-16. See Table 8.2 in Downloads.

EXPERIENCE WITH GPs

The way that a patient is treated by a health professional is an important aspect of their satisfaction with their care. All respondents who had seen a GP were asked for their perceptions on how they were treated by the GPs they had seen.

Of those who had seen a GP in the previous 12 months, 75% reported that the GP always listened carefully to them, 80% reported that they always showed them respect and 76% reported that they always spent enough time with them. These rates had all increased since 2014-15 (72%, 78% and 72% respectively). Males were more likely than females to report that the GP always listened carefully to them, always showed them respect, and always spent enough time with them. See Table 5.2 in Downloads.