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General practitioners (GP) are widely used in Australia and are the first point of contact for health issues for many Australians. People can 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 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 and barriers to accessing care. Respondents were also asked about the level of service provided, with the vast majority of people reporting a positive experience (89.5% of people who saw a GP in the last 12 months reported that the GP always or often listened carefully to them, while 92.8% reported that the GP always or often showed them respect).
Most people aged 15 years and over accessed health services during the previous year. The graph below shows that GPs were the most common health service accessed in 2012-13, with eight out of ten people (81.1%) seeing a GP at least once in the previous 12 months. This is very similar to 2011–12 (80.9%). Dental professionals were the second most common health service accessed (49.4%), followed by medical specialists (33.6%). (Table 1)
Footnote(s): (a) Includes dentist, dental hygienist and dental specialist
Source(s): Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings
The proportion of people who saw a GP in the previous 12 months has remained steady over the last four years; 2009 (80.8%), 2010–11 (81.6%), 2011-12 (80.9%) and 2012-13 (81.1%). A higher proportion of females than males saw a GP in the previous 12 months (86.6% compared with 75.4%). (Tables 1 and 2.2)
FREQUENCY OF VISITS
Difficulties in obtaining appointments when required can be both frustrating and sometimes even have a detrimental effect on a person's overall health. Of those who saw a GP in the previous 12 months, 20.0% of people waited longer than they felt was acceptable to get an appointment with a GP. Females were more likely to report waiting longer than acceptable compared with males (22.0% compared with 17.7%). People aged 65 years and over reported the smallest proportion of people waiting longer than they felt acceptable at 11.9%. (Tables 5.1 and 5.2)
People living in outer regional, remote or very remote areas of Australia were more likely to report waiting longer than acceptable compared with those living in major cities (23.8% compared with 19.3%). (Table 6.2)
Of the 15 million people aged 15 years and over who needed to see a GP in the previous 12 months, just under 10 million people (66.0%) saw a GP when needed and did not delay for any reason. Of people who needed to see a GP in the previous 12 months, 5.4% delayed seeing or did not see a GP at least once because of the cost. Females were more likely to delay or not see a GP due to cost than males (6.7% compared with 4.0%). (Tables 5.1 and 5.2)
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