Shortages of GP services have a big impact. When people can't see a GP, they get sick with conditions that could be prevented. This is costly for the health system and for individuals.
Many parts of Australia have too few GP services. The number of services per person in the lowest-access rural areas is less than half that of the major cities. These gaps affect a significant proportion of the population. More than a million people, one in 20 Australians, live in the seven under-served rural areas discussed in this report - in places such as Tamworth, Goulburn and Mt Isa, as well as the Northern Territory and most of Western Australia.
The problem has been around for generations. Successive policies have tried to fix it, but they have only solved the easiest problems by bringing GPs to inner regional centres, not to the areas with the greatest need. Many of the worst shortages have remained stubbornly high for decades, when the worst problems should be fixed first. At current rates of improvement, it would take more than 65 years for very remote areas of Australia to catch up to the levels of GP services that the big cities have today.