Access to same day, next day and after-hours appointments: The views of Australian general practitioners

Mark F. Harris*, Patrick G Powell Davies, Mahnaz Fanaian, Nicholas A. Zwar, Siaw Teng Liaw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Objective. To evaluate factors associated with the availability of same or next day appointments and after-hours access reported by Australian general practitioners (GPs). Methods. Secondary analysis of a survey of primary care practitioners conducted by the Commonwealth Fund in 2009 in 11 countries. Analysis of factors likely to be associated with reported availability of same or next day appointments and after-hours access. Findings. Of 1016 Australian GPs, 78.8% reported that most patients in their practice had access to an appointment on the same or next day and 50% that their practice had arrangements for after-hours access. Access to same or next day care was better in practices where practitioners reported larger numbers of patients seen per GP per week and reviewed their performance against annual targets, but worse in rural areas and practices routinely reviewing outcomes data. Arrangements for after-hours care were more common among GPs who were planning to retire in the next 5 years; worked in practices with high electronic functioning information systems; and received and reviewed clinical outcome data and incentives for performance. Conclusions. Improving after-hours access requires a comprehensive approach which includes incentives, improvements to information management and organised systems of care with review of data on clinical outcomes. What is known about the topic? Access to general practice is an important priority for the health system and the subject of several reforms and initiatives over the past decade in Australia. Access to same or next day appointments and after-hours has been an increasing concern related to workforce availability, and limited access to general practice is one factor influencing the demand on hospitals, especially their emergency departments. What does this paper add? This paper reports on secondary analysis of a survey of over 1000 general practitioners in Australia. Responses to questions about access to same or next day appointments or after-hours arrangements were analysed for associations with practitioner and practice characteristics and their processes and systems of care. Access to same day appointments is particularly challenging in rural general practice but is more likely to be reported by GPs working in larger practices. Incentives, quality improvement and better information management may be important strategies to improve after-hours access. What are the implications for practitioners? Strategies to improve access to appointments and to after-hours care need to be considered as part of a comprehensive approach which includes financial incentives, strengthening information systems and quality improvement activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-330
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


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