Rising number of Australians delaying GP visits in 2023 as rising costs bite

Eleanor Campbell NCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

Sick patients are increasingly delaying or avoiding seeing their GPs due to rising living costs, new data shows, with more people waiting longer for urgent medical care.

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows the number of people putting off doctor’s visits doubled compared to last year. Over ten per cent cited costs as a main factor for delaying treatment.

Over 45 per cent of people who saw a GP for urgent medical care waited for 24 hours or more in 2023, figures show, a six per cent jump on 2022-21. Almost a quarter of people delayed seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health professional because they could not afford it

Young people and those living disadvantaged areas were more likely to put off seeking health services due to unaffordability.

Doctor and patient.
Camera IconDeclining GP numbers, rising demand, and struggles to recruit and retain staff have compounded cost pressures, according to peak doctor’s groups. Credit: Supplied

Figures come as doctor’s reported raising their average fee for a standard consultation from $64 to just under $75 in 12 months. According to a recent workforce snapshot released by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), the proportion of GPs bulk billing their patients halved from 24 per cent in 2022 to just 12 per cent in 2023.

Growing costs-of-care reflect the “historical underfunding” of general practice in Australia, the report said, which linked a significant increase in patients financial woes to unstainable workloads and high levels of burnout facing doctors.

As part of a bid to improve primary health care access to vulnerable patients, the government recently tripled the incentive paid to doctors bulk billing concession card holders and children under 16. More than 11.6 million people are expected to benefit from the changes.

Originally published as Rising number of Australians delaying GP visits in 2023 as rising costs bite

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