News National One-fifth of Australians have ‘unacceptable’ wait for doctor’s appointment

One-fifth of Australians have ‘unacceptable’ wait for doctor’s appointment

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ACT, NSW and Tasmanian patients were most likely to be dissatisfied with GP wait times. Photo: Getty
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One in five Australians are confronted with an “unacceptable” wait to get a doctor’s appointment with their GP, a government services review into health has found.

The Productivity Commission review, released on Wednesday, said 19.2 per cent of people who saw a GP for any reason waited longer than they thought was acceptable for an appointment in 2017-18.

That’s a 1 per cent increase on the year prior, but below the five-year average.

Dissatisfaction with GP wait times was worst in the ACT, New South Wales and Tasmania.

Four per cent of people said they delayed or did not visit a GP due to cost last year.

Patients needing urgent medical care saw a GP within four hours 63.3 per cent of the time, or in up to 24 hours 9.9 per cent of the time.

One-quarter, or 26.7 per cent, waited longer than 24 hours for urgent medical care at their GP.

Seven per cent of people said they delayed or did not purchase prescribed medications in 2017-18 because of the cost. That’s lower than every year at least since 2012-13.

The proportion of people deferring access to prescribed medication was biggest in Tasmania and smallest in the Northern Territory.

The number of GPs increased in every state and territory from a total of 35,942 to 36,938 in the year.

Queensland had the most GPs per capita, followed by South Australia and New South Wales. The Northern Territory and then Western Australia had the least, but all made gains in 2017-18.

The availability of female GPs also increased in every state and territory, although men still make up 62 per cent of all full-time GPs.

Outer regional, remote and very remote areas have also gained more GPs over the years.

All patients needing resuscitation were seen within triage category timeframes at public hospitals in 2017-18.

Nationally, emergencies were seen within target timeframes 76 per cent of the time or 64 per cent of urgent needs.

NSW had the best results in every single triage category.

The proportion of patients staying for less than four hours in an emergency department has dropped slightly to 71.1 per cent from 72.7 per cent in 2013-14.

Overall in Australia, 61 per cent of patients said they didn’t wait as long as they thought they would need to for an ambulance.

That’s the same as the year prior, though there were changes in each jurisdiction including a 10 per cent jump in Tasmania and 6 per cent drop in Queensland.

Almost all patients said the level of care provided by paramedics was good or very good.

Half of patients admitted to public hospitals for elective surgery waited just 40 days last year, and 90 per cent were admitted within 268 days.

Nationally in 2016-17, 68 per cent of people who presented to emergency needing mental health care were seen within recommended waiting times.

NSW was also the best performer on that category, followed by Victoria and Queensland.

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