Indigenous children and those born overseas are less likely to have a regular family doctor than all other Australian children, according to a new report by researchers at The Australian National University Medical School.
Lead author and Professor of General Practice Marjan Kljakovic said the study involved more than 30,000 parents in the ACT and it looked at how many children had a regular GP and therefore received continuity of care.
“Our research aimed to find out the proportion of doctors displaying continuous and transient care over time and also to describe the equity of access to GP care for children in the ACT,” he said.
“Patient continuity of care can be defined in a number of different ways in relation to continuity over time, passing on of information and the continuous personal relationship with the healthcare provider.
“In this eight-year study, we also considered whether GPs stayed in one place long enough to provide that continuity which is something that hasn’t been examined before.
“We found that the frequency of GPs displaying continuity of care varied over time with 19 per cent being present in the ACT in only one year and 39 per cent of GPs being present in every year of the study.
“We also discovered that in each year, an average of 77 per cent of parents could name both the GP and the practice, an average of 11 per cent could name only the practice, and an average of 12 per cent couldn’t name either.”
Professor Kljakovic said that 25 per cent of parents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and children born outside Australia could not name a usual GP, compared to 10 per cent of all other children.
“In Australia, there is no formal process where patients voluntarily register with individual GPs or their practices,” he said.
“The inequity of access to a nominated GP for Indigenous and overseas-born children might disappear if voluntary registration of children was adopted in Australian general practice.”
Professor Kljakovic said continuity of care resulted in better personal service because it meant doctors were familiar with their patients’ history and it helped build rapport.