We love our GPs – with good reason apparently

IT'S an old joke with a long history of service on the Northern Rivers: We've got great GPs - provided you can find one.

However, new figures suggest fewer North Coast residents than you might think these days struggled to find a doctor.

The figures, contained within the first Healthy Communities report from the National Health Performance Authority, show we still love our GPs on the Northern Rivers, but only 19% of people surveyed for the report felt they had to wait "longer than acceptable" for an appointment.

The report also found the region still struggled with access to GPs after hours.

Overall, the report found for the North Coast Medicare Local region:

  • 84% of people surveyed saw a GP within in the previous 12 months
  • 89% felt their GP always or often listened carefully to them
  • 19% felt they waited longer than acceptable for a GP appointment
  • 8% delayed or did not see a GP due to cost barriers
  • 84% said they viewed their health as excellent, very good, or good
  • On average, the people surveyed had visited a GP six times during the 2011/12 financial year
  • The number per person of GP After Hours attendances in 2011/12 was 0.12

North Coast Medicare Local chief executive Vahid Saberi said the report was "encouraging" for the North Coast, particularly given the region's relatively low average income, ageing population and high rate of chronic diseases.

"Our GPs are meeting the challenge and our community enjoys good general practice care," Mr Saberi said.

The report also seems to suggest there is a solid foundation to the high regard the region holds its GPs in.

North Coast Medicare Local clinical advisor Dr Dan Ewald said the report suggested North Coast doctors spent more time with their patients than doctors in other, similar, regions and worked hard with patients to come up with management plans for patients with issues such as chronic disease or mental health problems.

"This report provides NCML with important baseline information to work from and improve North Coast health outcomes. We will be talking to GPs to acknowledge the good work they are doing and devise ways to do things even better," he said.

"One of NCML's priorities is working to provide more after hours GP services for the community, especially in areas where there are no services currently."

The National Health Performance Authority says it surveyed a total 26,423 people across 61 Medicare Local regions. The authority didn't provide details of the numbers interviewed within each region but, assuming the sample for each region was the same, the likely samples would be between 400 and 500 people, providing an error rate of about 4.5%.

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