Barriers to accessing healthcare

Nearly a quarter of Australians do not see a doctor when they feel they need to, with costs and lack of services the key roadblocks, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 

The report, Coordination of health care, found that 24 per cent of Australians said they did not see a GP even when they felt that they needed to, and that one half of those who did not see a GP said it was because they could not get an appointment.

One in eight (13 per cent) reported that there was a time when they felt they needed to see a specialist but did not go.

The report found that 45 per cent of people who did not see a specialist when needed said it was because of the cost.

Australians with high health needs were more than three times as likely not to visit a GP when needed compared to Australians with low health needs.

Patients with high health needs also had more GP visits (13.8 per person), on average, than patients with low health needs (4.6 per person).

The proportion of patients who said they did not see a GP or specialist because there were no health services nearby rose with increasing remoteness.

Compared with people in cities, remote Australians were more than eight times as likely not to see a GP and more than 24 times as likely not to see a specialist when needed due to lack of services.

The Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, Anthony Tassone, told the Australian Journal of Pharmacy that pharmacists could be better utilised to address the GP shortfall.

“There is growing awareness and understanding among members of the public of what pharmacists are able to do beyond dispense prescriptions and give advice about medicines including services such as: vaccinations, screening services for some chronic diseases, management of common ailments and absence from work certificates,” Mr Tassone said.

“Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, there were strains on our health system and challenges for some patients to access their GP.

“Community pharmacies are the most accessible and visited primary health destination in Australia and with the public having a high degree of trust and satisfaction with community pharmacists, it makes simple sense to best use the skills and expertise possible in the network.”

Heart Foundation risk reduction manager Natalie Raffoul said Australians were risking their health by not seeing a GP when they felt it was needed.

“We know that one in five Australians aged 45 to 74 have a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years,” Ms Raffoul said.

“It’s concerning to see so many Australians aged 45 and over who are not seeing a doctor when they feel they need to.”  

Ms Raffoul explained that all Australians aged 45 or over were eligible for a heart health check, which was fully funded by Medicare.

How difficult do you find it to schedule an appointment with your GP when you have a health issue?

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