Home doctor visits in the ACT have gone up almost 1200 per cent in just three years at a cost to the taxpayer that GPs have warned is unsustainable.
The number of claims for urgent after-hours home visits rose from 1588 in 2013-14 to 13,791 the next financial year — the first full year of operation of the bulk-billing National Home Doctor Service in the territory.
Last financial year the figure rose again to 20,556. Each claim is processed at either $129.80 or $153, compared to a standard GP rebate of $37.05.
National Home Doctor Service executive chairman Paul Mirabelle said growth in after-hours services was a positive and appreciated by patients, their carers and parents.
He said the service triaged each call with emergency patients referred towards hospitals and those with routine matters redirected to their GP.
"[This] means that residents are accessing a medical service they value as part of our Medicare system," he said.
"We know that the families that use the National Home Doctor Service would otherwise often present at emergency departments, or in the case of aged care facilities, use (an) ambulance."
But Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Bastian Seidel questioned the significant increase in urgent cases.
The spike, noted nationally, has been the subject of a review by former Australian Medical Association head Steve Hambleton.
"Certainly it is a significant increase," Dr Seidel said.
"There is no explanation for this radical increase in urgent presentations. It's very concerning for us.
"It's a supply-driven service rather than a demand-driven service."
However, Dr Seidel acknowledged patients were keen to find affordable ways to access healthcare.
"One in 20 patients aren't seeing their doctor because of the associated costs, so of course patients are looking at ways of accessing clinical care," he said.
"The difference is that the government pays even more for an after-hours consultation rather than a consultation during the day."
A federal Health Department spokesperson said the review of urgent after-hours items was triggered by feedback from clinicians.
"The Taskforce has established a working group to consider the items," they said.
"No advice has been provided to the minister so there is not a timetable for any announcements."