Why do people visit EDs instead of GPs?

The ABS Patient Experience Survey provides some insight into reasons why people visit EDs. The 2018–19 ABS Patient Experience Survey found that 16.8% of respondents aged 15 and over who visited an ED for any reason (representing an estimated 461,500 people) thought their care could have been provided by a GP for their most recent visit to the ED. This proportion has remained largely unchanged since 2015–16 (17.9%) (ABS 2019).

The majority of people who visited an ED reported the main reason they went to an ED instead of a GP was because they were taken by ambulance, the condition was serious, or they were sent by a GP (58%). One in 5 (21%) reported that the main reason was because a GP was not available when required and less than 1% indicated the main reason was because the ED was lower in cost than visiting a GP (Figure 3) (ABS 2019).

Figure 3: Main reason people went to the ED instead of a GP on the most recent occasion, 2018–19

Figure 3: Main reason people went to the ED instead of a GP on the most recent occasion, 2018–19
The horizontal bar chart shows that ‘Taken by ambulance or condition was serious’ was the most frequently reported main reason that people when to the ED instead of a GP in 2018–19 (47.1%25 of respondents). This was followed by ‘GP not available when required’ (20.5%25), ‘GP does not have required equipment or facilities’ (12.4%25), ‘Sent to emergency by GP’ (10.5%25), ‘Other’ (7.3%25), ‘Waiting time for GP appointment too long’ (1.8%25), and ‘Lower cost than GP visit’ (0.4%25).

  95% confidence interval.

Note: Survey respondents were asked about the most recent time they went to an ED (for any reason) in the last 12 months. Survey excludes persons aged less than 15 years, persons living in non-private dwellings and the Indigenous Community Strata (encompassing discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities).

Source: ABS Patient Experience Survey 2018–19.

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2019. Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings, 2018–19. ABS Cat. No. 4839.0. Canberra: ABS.