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While spending on health goods and services has increased overall, spending on pharmaceuticals has slowed, despite an increasing number of prescriptions dispensed, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Health expenditure Australia 2013-14: analysis by sector, looks at spending on particular areas of health, and is a companion report to Health expenditure Australia 2013-14, released in September this year.

Of recurrent expenditure in 2013-14, $58.8 billion was spent on Hospitals, $54.7 billion on Primary health care and $32.0 billion on Other health goods and services.

In 2013-14, unreferred medical services (for example, visits to a general practitioner) accounted for the greatest share of Primary health care funding at 19.3%.

'This was in contrast to earlier in the decade, when benefit-paid pharmaceuticals attracted the most spending in the primary health care sector,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Adrian Webster.

Spending on benefit-paid pharmaceuticals slowed over the last three years, despite a steady increase in the number of prescriptions dispensed. In 2013-14, the growth in benefit-paid pharmaceuticals expenditure was 1.0% in real terms, compared with a 6.3% growth in the number of prescriptions dispensed (the highest in the decade).

'This suggests that slower growth in both government and non-government spending in this area did not mean fewer services were delivered,' Dr Webster said.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 10 December

Further information: Dr Adrian Webster, AIHW, mob. 0434 022 127

Full publication: Health expenditure Australia 2013-14: analysis by sector