Clients

Overall, the total number of clients seen by the included organisations increased over the 3 periods, from approximately 388,000 in 2018–19 to nearly 395,000 in 2020–21. There was a much smaller numerical increase between 2020–21 and 2019–20 than between 2019–20 and 2018–19 (Table 1).

Table 1. Number of clients and number of organisations who cited the pandemic as a reason for variation in numbers between periods, by degree of variation from previous period

Table 1A. 2019–20 compared with 2018–19

 

Clients 2019–20

Clients 2018–19

Difference in clients between periods

 

Organisations who cited pandemic
2019–20

Organisation who did not cite pandemic
2019–20

Total organisations 2019–20

Organisations with 20% or more decrease

6,707

8,933

–2,226

 

3

2

5

Organisations with 20% or more increase

29,678

22,285

7,393

 

11

11

Organisations with less than 20% change

356,761

356,900

–139

 

n.a.

n.a.

145

Total

393,146

388,118

5,028

 

3

13

161

Table 1B. 2020–21 compared with 2019–20

 

Clients 2020–21

Clients 2019–20

Difference in clients between periods

 

Organisations who cited pandemic
2020–21

Organisation who did not cite pandemic
2020–21

Total organisations 2020–21

Organisations with 20% or more decrease

12,959

17,287

–4,328

 

10

10

Organisations with 20% or more increase

31,480

23,524

7,956

 

11

11

Organisations with less than 20% change

350,508

352,335

–1,827

 

n.a.

n.a.

140

Total

394,947

393,146

1,801

 

21

161

Notes

  1. Organisations that reported to the OSR collection in 2018–19, 2019–20, and 2020–21 and had no identified issues in the comparability of their data over time.
  2. For clients, the validation rules trigger for 20% change in the total only.

Source: AIHW analysis of the OSR collection.

At the organisation level:

  • comparing 2019–20 with 2018–19 (Table 1A), 5 organisations had more than a 20% decrease in their number of clients (with a total of around 2,200 fewer clients than in the previous period), and 11 organisations had more than a 20% increase in their client numbers (with a total of around 7,400 more clients).
  • comparing 2020–21 with 2019–20 (Table 1B), there were 10 organisations with more than a 20% decrease in their client numbers (with a total of around 4,300 fewer clients), while 11 organisations had more than a 20% increase in their client numbers (with a total of around 8,000 more clients).

Three of the 5 organisations whose 2019–20 client numbers had decreased by 20% or more compared with 2018–19 stated that the pandemic had played a role in the decrease, however they provided little detail on how the pandemic affected their numbers. None of the 11 organisations with more than a 20% increase in client numbers cited the pandemic as an explanation.

None of the 21 organisations in 2020–21 with more than a 20% variation in their client numbers from 2019–20 cited the pandemic as an explanation for the changes.

Further analysis by Indigenous status showed that:

  • the number of Indigenous clients increased between 2018–19 and 2019–20  (from around 319,000 to 324,000), but then decreased in 2020–21 (to around 321,000)
  • the number of non-Indigenous clients increased across all three periods, from around 61,000 in 2018–19, to around 62,000 in 2019–20, and to around 69,600 in 2020–21.

Part of the increase in the number of non-Indigenous clients in 2020–21 is likely due to a significant decrease in the number of clients with their Indigenous status not recorded (for example, better recording practices). There were also indications from some organisations in their comments about client contacts and episodes-of-care that they were seeing more non-Indigenous clients than usual because they were running testing and/or vaccination clinics that were open to all or that they were the only source of primary health care available. Half of the 38 organisations with a 20% more increase in the number of non-Indigenous clients were in the Northern Territory.