Pros and Cons of Seeing an After Hours GP
When you’re feeling unwell, it can be tempting to contact an after hours GP for medical attention. It’s easy, cost-effective (consultations are normally bulk billed) and convenient, and can give you peace of mind when suffering from a medical issue late at night. But despite these perks, there may be some drawbacks to making the call.
Keep reading to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of contacting a doctor on demand.
Some of the main benefits are:
Great for people who live in rural or regional areas
One of the greatest advantages of an after hours GP is that it improves accessibility for those living in rural or regional areas in which there is no nearby medical centre (or it’s a long distance away). Some health complaints can be treated over the phone without the need to visit a health centre. Alternatively, if a health complaint does require medical attention, the doctor may be able to come to the patient and deliver any required services and/or medication.
Allows you to get immediate medical advice
Having a sudden health problem in the middle of the night (especially if it happens to your child) can be startling and upsetting. It can be worrying not knowing what the problem is and whether or not to visit the emergency ward or wait until the next day to visit a medical centre. An after hours GP can alleviate your anxiety by providing instant medical advice over the phone, so that you know what to do next.
Reduced need for travel
When you’re unwell, you may have to do a lot of travelling to get better. Not only do you have to get to the medical centre, but you’re likely to need to find a pharmacy to buy medication, too. And travelling can be tough when you’re not feeling well – if you’re nauseous, the last thing you want to do is drive a car or catch a bus! Being able to have a consultation over the phone can potentially remove the need for travel.
Some of the main drawbacks are:
Reliance on after hours GP can be unhelpful
The convenience of a doctor on demand can be addictive, and it can be tempting to call them up for every little medical issue you face. But doctors warn that the service should only be used for urgent (but not life-threatening) medical issues. Other issues should be treated by an in-person doctor. An after hours GP cannot provide all the services that they can in a medical centre, such as a full physical exam.
The service has costed taxpayers around $155 million a year for the past 5 years. This is because doctors are given rebates (usually $130) from the government every time they respond to an after hours GP call. If these calls are being made out of the desire for convenience rather than real urgent need, this could be considered a waste of taxpayer’s money.
Potentially fraudulent doctors
A government review found that 63% of those claiming to be an after hours GP were not vocationally registered. As these businesses aren’t regulated, the level of service you receive is likely to be dubious. You could be given an improper diagnoses and/or prescription, which could potentially lead to harm.
The benefits and drawbacks of using an after hours GP should be weighed up before making a decision on whether or not to make a call. If your medical condition is not urgent or life-threatening, consider waiting until the morning to visit a medical centre.