Nearly a quarter of Aussies not seeing doctor when needed

Twenty-four per cent of Australians do not see a doctor when they feel they need to, with cost and lack of services the key road-blocks, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).


The report, "Coordination of health care: experiences of barriers to accessing health services among patients aged 45 and over", found:

  • 1 in 4 Australians (24%) said they did not see a GP even when they felt they needed to.
  • 1 in 2 (50%) Australians who didn’t see a GP said they could not get an appointment.
  • 4 in 10 (45%) Australians who didn’t see a specialist when needed said it was because of cost.
  • Australians with high health needs were more than 3 times likely to not visit a GP when needed compared with Australians with low health needs.
  • Compared with people in cities, remote Australians were more than 8 times as likely to not see a GP and more than 24 times as likely to not see a specialist when needed to due to lack of services.


Heart Foundation Risk Reduction Manager, Natalie Raffoul said Australians are risking their health by not seeing a GP when they feel they need to.


“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. This is why 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 said.


“If you have not had a heart event, and are 45 years and over, or from 30 years if you’re an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, you are eligible for a Heart Health Check covered by Medicare.


“Most clinical risk factors for heart disease are silent, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which means that people may be at risk without knowing it.


“Australians living in rural and remote areas are twice as likely to be hospitalised for heart attack. This is why it’s so important to make the most out of your GP visits if you live in a remote area by combining your health check-ups – speak to your GP practice about coordinating this.”


Ms Raffoul said the introduction of Medicare-subsidised Heart Health Checks in 2019 was a big step forward in giving thousands of Australians access to an essential preventive health service. But the findings show that equitable access to preventive healthcare must continue to be a priority for governments.


“We need to support GPs and primary healthcare professionals so they can provide remote Australians with the same opportunities to reduce their risk of heart disease as their city counterparts,” she said.


“GPs have provided more than 83,000 Medicare-subsidised Heart Health Checks to Australians in the first 10 months since the item was introduced on 1 April 2019. These checks will save lives.”


10 March 2020.