Access to health services

People living in Remote and very remote areas generally have poorer access to, and use of, health services than people in regional areas and Major cities. They also have lower rates of bowel cancer screening, higher rates of potentially avoidable hospital admissions, and lower access to selected hospital procedures [1].

In 2014–15, people living in Major cities were more likely than those living in regional and remote Australia to have visited a general practitioner (GP) in the last 12 months (86% compared with 83% in Inner regional areas and 84% in Outer regional and remote areas) [2].

In 2014, the full-time equivalent (based on total weekly hours worked) rate of employed GPs per 100,000 population was higher in Remote and very remote areas (137) than in Major cities (109); however:

  • the overall rate of employed medical practitioners (including specialists) was lower (253 per 100,000 population compared with 409)
  • the number of GP services provided per person in Very remote areas during 2010–11 was about half that of Major cities [3].

Those living in Major cities were also more likely to have consulted a dentist in the last 12 months than people living in regional and remote areas of Australia (49% and 42%, respectively) [2].

People living in remote areas of Australia may need to travel long distances or relocate to attend health services or receive specialised treatment. For example, based on combined data for 2005–2010, 57% of people with end-stage kidney disease who lived in Very remote areas at the start of their treatment moved to less remote areas within 1 year.

In 2013–14, the rate for emergency hospital admissions involving surgery was highest for people living in Very remote areas (22 per 1,000 population) and fell with decreasing remoteness to be lowest among people living in Major cities (12 per 1,000).


  1. AIHW 2016. Australia's health 2016. Australia's health no. 15. Cat. no. AUS 199. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017. Health service usage and health related actions, Australia 2014¬–15. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.002. Canberra: ABS.
  3. Duckett S, Breadon P & Ginnivan L 2013. Access all areas: new solutions for GP shortages in rural Australia. Melbourne: Grattan Institute.