Saturday, August 1, 2009

HCCA Submission to the GP Task Force

HCCA has made a submission to the GP Task Force. It is available online (290 kb Pdf)

Our community needs primary health care that is accessible, clinically and culturally appropriate, timely and affordable. We based our submission on our research and analysis of consumer experiences and expectations of general practice in the ACT.

We would like thank the hundreds of people who took the time to complete the GP Snapshot online survey and share their experiences and expectations of general practice in the ACT. There is a strong level of interest in the community about access to quality health services.

We would also like to thank the many people in our membership and wider networks who shared their experiences and perspectives with us.

A quick summary:
In our consultations we found that consumers’ experiences of primary health care were varied. Some consumers are very well placed with a regular GP who they can see when the need arises. Other consumers reported that the inadequate supply of GPs presents them with significant difficulties in accessing satisfactory care, including for urgent appointments, referrals, scripts or renewals of prescriptions.

Consumers also reported a level of disruption to their health care with the closure of general practices and move to larger corporate medical centres. The impact of closures of practices on consumers is amplified as many existing GP practices have closed their books to new patients.

One of the strategies consumers have developed to deal with the GP shortage is to have a number of general practices they access. A respondent to the GP Snapshot 2009 said that they had “2-3 GPs because we cannot always get to see the same GP due to difficulties getting an appointment” (Respondent 130).

The extension of “corporate” GP practices with a strong profit emphasis is a cause of dissatisfaction for many health consumers in the ACT; reasons given are reduced geographic access, especially if relying on public transport, no doctor of choice and a ‘production line’ consultation process – a particular concern for consumers with chronic and complex conditions.

The majority (81.2%) of respondents have a regular GP. Respondents were asked to provide reasons for not having a GP. The main reasons given for not having a GP were that the consumers can never get into their preferred GP (17.5%) and that GP Clinics are not taking new patients (16.7%).

The GP Snapshot 2009 was designed to capture a snapshot consumer experiences and expectations of general practice in the ACT.

The survey was developed based on discussions with consumer representatives and members of HCCA. Secretariat to the GP Task Force had seen a draft of the survey before publication. The survey was piloted with a group of HCCA members. It included issues such as whether consumers have regular GPs, waiting times, the quality of the interaction and demographic material and included a number of questions that the GP Task Force had asked practicing GPs.

The survey ran from 15 June - 3 July 2009 and was publicised through HCCA members and networks, and media coverage in The Canberra Times, ABC Canberra and 2CC. There were 635 responses. We think that the number of responses demonstrated a strong interest in the community around this issue.

Our preliminary analysis is included throughout the submission to the GP Task Force. A summary of findings is available online (151kb Pdf). HCCA will continue to analyse the results of the survey and post this to the HCCA blog over time.

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