ABS releases dental health access stats

People waiting longer than they would like for dental treatment.
More people are waiting longer than they would like for dental treatment, says the ABS.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released data suggesting patients feel they have to wait a longer-than-acceptable time for medical attention, although the data differed significantly across the States and Territories.

“In 2013-14, over one in four people (27 per cent) in the Northern Territory who saw a GP, felt they waited longer than acceptable to get an appointment,” said Louise Gates from the ABS.

“This is compared to just 19 per cent of people in Queensland, which has the lowest proportion in the country.”


The 2013-14 Patient Experience Survey in Australia: States and Territories, examines peoples’ experience with health care including: visits to health professionals, whether health services were accessed when needed, waiting times to see GPs and medical specialists and patients’ opinions of the care they received.

When it comes to dentistry, ACT patients were happiest with their dental access. People in the Australian Capital Territory were the most likely to have seen a dental professional in the last 12 months (53.6%) compared with those in the Northern Territory who were the least likely (41.5%).

Tasmania had the highest proportion of people who needed to see a dental health professional, but did not at all in the previous 12 months (22.5%) compared with the Australian Capital Territory which had the lowest proportion (12.5%).

Figures also showed that many people in 2013-14 did not see a health professional when they needed to for a variety of reasons including cost.

Tasmania had the highest proportion of people who needed to see a health professional but did not go in the previous 12 months. This included needing to go to hospital (eight per cent), see a medical specialist (ten per cent) or see a dental professional (23 per cent).

This compared with Western Australia which had the lowest proportion for hospital (four per cent), South Australia which had the lowest proportion for medical specialists (six per cent) and the Australian Capital Territory for dental professionals (13 per cent).

The ABS Patient Experience Survey is conducted annually and collects data on access and barriers to a range of health care services, including general practitioners (GPs), medical specialists, dental professionals, imaging and pathology tests, hospital admissions and emergency department visits. It includes data from people that accessed health services in the previous 12 months, as well as from those who did not, and enables analysis of health service information in relation to particular population groups. Data are also collected on aspects of communication between patients and health professionals.

Data on patient experience is of value to both users of health services as well as those aiming to improve the health system.


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