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  • Australians are missing out on seeing their GP due to expenses

    Author: AAP

A Productivity Commission report shows that thousands of Australians are missing out on seeing their GP and skipping medications due to cost worries.

Nearly one million Australians put off visiting their GP in the past year because they were worried about the cost.

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And just under two million Aussies didn't buy medication prescribed by their doctor because of the expense.

The findings are in the latest snapshot of government healthcare services, released by the Productivity Commission on Wednesday.

It shows that while 85.4 per cent of GP appointments were bulk-billed in 2015/16, just over four per cent of Australians delayed or didn't visit see their doctor because of the cost.

Another 1.8 million people - or 7.6 per cent of the population - put off buying prescribed medicines, a rate that has remained fairly steady since 2012.

People living in the ACT, Tasmania and Western Australia were the most likely to defer a visit to their doctor while Queenslanders were most likely to hold off on buying medication.

Of those who did see their doctor, nearly a fifth felt they had to wait too long to get an appointment with one of the 34,605 GPs around the country.

Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Tony Bartone said the number of patients who had put off seeing their GP because of the cost had actually dropped by about a fifth since 2012.

But he urged the federal government to help improve things for patients and doctors by ending the long-running freeze on the Medicare rebates paid to GPs to help cover the cost of their services.

"What we know is out of pocket costs to see the GP have doubled in the past 10 years and this is entirely a consequence of the inadequate indexation of patient rebates over time including the current freeze which has been going on essentially since 2013," he told AAP.

On the number of patients unhappy with how long they had to wait to get a GP appointment, Dr Bartone said three quarters of people were able to get an appointment within 24 hours.

"If we look at our system, the immediacy of appointments is something we struggle with all day ... making sure we utilise our resources to the fullest while meeting demand," he said.

"But in this society of immediacy people don't like to wait."

The report found that government spending on GPs was $8.7 billion - or $365 per person - last financial year.

About three million people were also found to have gone to hospital emergency departments for treatment instead of their GP.

Their reasons for doing so ranged from a perceived or actual lack of access to GP services, the proximity of the hospital, and trust in emergency department staff, the report said.


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