Canberrans wait on average more than 6 days to see their preferred doctor

Canberrans wait on average more than 6 days to see their preferred doctor

Canberrans waited on average nearly a week to see their preferred doctor and more than two days to get in to see any GP.

People in the ACT faced an average wait of 6.73 days in 2013 to see their usual GP, up from 4.7 days in 2008, according to data released on Thursday.

In the ACT, the average wait to see any GP was 2.25 days in 2013, down from 2.3 days five years in 2008, according to the analysis of new data from the Medicine in Australia, Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) survey.

The figures are revealed in interactive online maps from Australian National University's National Centre for Geographic Analysis in Primary Health Care and gives the public access to six years of data of GP surveys.


Standard consult fees in the ACT rose from $57 in 2008 to $71.41 in 2013 when the average bulk-billing rate in the territory was 39.39 per cent, according to the research.

ANU Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute research fellow Dr Ian McRae said the figures tended to "bounce around" from year to year.

"That's partly because the real world bounces a bit as doctors move into and out of areas and partly because the sample bounces a bit," he said.

"If you look at the numbers across the ACT, you would have to say at best, they're flat and if anything, they're going up. They're certainly not going down and the 6.7 number is relatively high in the scheme of things."

ACT Medicare Local chair Rashmi Sharma said accessibility to doctors in the ACT had improved and GPs were reporting having "empty appointments" on some days.

"The data is still about 18 months old from where we are now and we know in the last 18 months, we've had significant movement into Canberra, we've got increased GP registrars," she said.

"The other thing to remember is that it's people wanting to get into their preferred GP which is not the same as not being able to see a doctor."

Dr Sharma said there had been improvements in how quickly Canberrans could get in to see a doctor.

"If you go to any practice, I think you'd find you would be able to get an appointment on the same day," she said.

"There's definitely been improvement. We've now seen for the first time practices reopen their books to take on new patients and also general practice has got more sophisticated in their systems of care so you'll often find practices now actually quarantine off appointments for the same day for emergencies so they won't let all of their appointments be booked up in advance."

Dr McRae said the data allowed people to compare places like Canberra with other metropolitan or regional areas and it allowed for better health care policy directions in the future.

"Rural folks have much longer waiting times than urban folks and you can start to look at things like that and with more detailed analysis, you then start to say 'well what can we learn about the practices that have the longer waiting times – are they the bigger ones, the small ones, the rural ones rather than the urban ones' and you start to get into those sorts of studies to build understanding so you can start to think about the policy directions that can be helpful," he said.

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