GPs favoured but costs and barriers remain in health system

While the overwhelming majority of middle-aged and older Australians are happy with their GP, as shown in a new national Survey of Health Care, its findings on cost and other barriers underline gaps in care and the need for a better-connected health system.  

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics survey report released today found that 96 per cent of people aged 45 and over viewed their GP positively.  That is a very encouraging foundation on which to develop a stronger more integrated care system such as the Health Care Homes being trialed by the Federal Government,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“We can see from other findings in the survey that there are gaps in care and in information getting to patients, and barriers caused by cost such as the 45 per cent of respondents who indicated the cost of the appointment was a reason they did not see a specialist doctor when they felt they needed to.

“That’s a concern when you consider that over half the population over 45 reported seeing a specialist doctor in the previous 12 months.

“Many older Australians do face significant ongoing health costs, such as the four in five people who are taking at least one medication a day.  These figures emphasise the importance of cost transparency and action on out of pocket costs. This is an issue for all Australians, not just a small part of the population.

“While one in eight reported not seeing a GP because of cost, the most common barrier to not seeing a GP was not being able to get an appointment.  Rates of seeing a GP after hours is high – with one in eight reporting seeing a GP after hours. This emphasises the need to protect consumers from changes to after-hours care.

“The survey gives us a valuable insight into patients’ experiences of health care given the 35,000 people who responded from around Australia.  Its findings add weight to much of what CHF has advocated for in terms of better quality access to care, out of pocket costs and digital health.

“It reveals problematic gaps in information getting to patients such as the significant numbers of those who said that their GPs did not seem informed about the care they received from specialists, or of their medication needs after a visit to a hospital.

“The prospect of much improved patient access to information offered by the My Health Record we trust will deliver a better informed patient and a better connected health system,” Ms Wells said.


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Mark Metherell
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