Media release

Patients must be given greater access to after-hours GP appointments

Boosting investments in Medicare and expanding the definition of ‘after hours’ will give patients greater access to GP appointments outside of normal hours.

Close up of part of a clock face with the second hand on 12

In a submission to a Department of Health and Aged Care review of primary care after hours programs and policy, the Australian Medical Association says patients are not provided with enough support to access GP services outside of normal hours.

Patients still get sick outside of normal business hours and with inadequate support for general practices to open for extended hours, they are forced look to other options including a visit to an already stressed emergency department.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson said current arrangements discourage GPs from offering in-clinic services after 6pm on a weeknight and on weekends.

“Anyone who has ever needed care outside of normal work hours would know how difficult it is, so anything to improve the accessibility and affordability of after-hours primary care would be immensely beneficial,” Professor Robson said.

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine’s State of Emergency 2022 report found that of all emergency department presentations, 39 per cent occurred between 6pm and 7.59am.

“Expanding the after-hours time frame so higher MBS rebates can be applied from 6pm on weekdays and 12pm on a Saturday would help relieve the public hospital logjam because people who might otherwise show up at emergency departments will have an alternative,” Professor Robson said.

The AMA previously estimated that giving greater incentives for general practices to stay open for extended hours would cost the federal government $339.7 million over the forward estimates.

We welcomed the investment of about $6 billion in general practice in last year’s budget, which stemmed from the AMA’s Modernise Medicare campaign, but there is more to be done,” Professor Robson said.

“As the next federal budget approaches and we look to build on the investment in MyMedicare, there is a golden opportunity to further address some of Australia’s cost-of-living pressures by improving access to general practice after hours and making after-hours GP appointments much more affordable.”

Read the AMA’s submission

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