There is limited data to inform policy about the availability and costs of primary healthcare at the local level. The objective of this article was to determine the appointment availability and out-of-pocket costs for patients presenting with non‑urgent conditions to general practices in a regional setting.
A cross-sectional, census study included all 184 general practices across 12 local government areas in northern New South Wales. Practices were telephoned in a randomised sequence on weekday mornings by a researcher.
Twenty-two practices were excluded from the study as these were specialised‑only services; therefore, the sample size was n = 162. The rate of same-day appointment availability was 47.5% (n = 77/162; range: 11–63%), and bulk-billing availability was 21% (range: 0–50%). The mean out-of-pocket cost was $29.98 (range: $12.95–60.30).
Availability of primary healthcare and bulk billing across northern New South Wales is highly variable. Areas with low service availability should be targeted by policy.