Revealed: the six reasons people choose hospital over their GP

Do you have a regular GP? If so, you are 10 per cent less likely to visit an emergency department,

Do you have a regular GP? If so, you are 10 per cent less likely to visit an emergency department, according to a global study that says we need to spend more money on primary health care in order to improve hospital efficiency.

The survey, which encompassed 34 countries including Australia, 60,000 people and 7000 general practices finds patients are more likely to show up at the emergency department when they have no access to a GP and/or out-of-hours practice.

The study collated the reasons Australians too themselves off to hospital and found that less than a quarter of the time it was because their condition required hospital treatment. Here are the six reasons people go to the ED instead of seeing their doctor:


  • 24 per cent of patients visit the ED instead of their GP because their GP is not available;
  • 26 per cent because they have a non-GP-type presentation
  • 8 per cent because of convenience;
  • 6 per cent because the ED waiting time is shorter;
  • 4 per cent because they believe the ED delivers better care
  • 2 per cent for financial reasons

The study authors say the results show that more money needs to be invested in doctors and building relationships between doctors and patients, but an Australian researcher says that’s only half the problem.

“It’s not only a question of needing more after-hours services — we also need more awareness of what services are already there,” said Dr Bianca Brijnath, a senior research fellow from the department of general practice at Monash University.

How do these results relate to your experience? Have you ever gone to the Emergency department over the doctor? Do you have access to after-hours GPs in your area? 

  1. I would never go the Emergency Department , unless there was a real emergency,if I thought the issue could wait till the next day I would go to my GP

  2. Our GPs don’t work after hours n the Dial a Doctor people good as they are have an enormous workload and the wait is worrying

  3. Never use the ED that’s for emergencies only.
    No excuse in our area we have an after hour Doctor home visit service. I haven’t had to use it yet but I believe it’s a pretty good service. Leaves the ED open for the people who really need it.
    I believe people go there with colds, splinters etc. what a waste of our resources.

  4. My daughter-in-law works in an Emergency Department of a big hospital and I know she gets annoyed with the amount of people who go there who are not emergencies and could quite easily wait to see their own GPs.

    • We all get annoyed when people use the ED instead of the GP. Excuses given include “My Dr is out of town” – to which I usually reply, “but you are happy to see a random Dr in the ED”; “It’s free” – which is true, as many Dr’s don’t bulk people, or have a small co-payment; “I can’t afford my medication this week” – usually from people who have spent all their money on non-essentials before getting their essentials. Other favourites are people who use an ambulance to get to hospital thinking they will get seen quicker than if they went in the car. I can tell you this isn’t the case, and in many instances the paramedic will let the triage nurse know this, and smile as the triage nurse puts the patient in the waiting room for the 4-6 hour wait. Needing an X-ray doesn’t mean you need a hospital either unless it is outside business hours. I could go on and on. What I definitely know is that the nurses and Dr’s don’t mind being busy when they are helping people that legitimately need to be there. They do get frustrated by those who turn up with their “coughs, colds and sore holes”.

  5. I would be embaressed to turn up to emergency for something trivial. We have a special clinic here for minor issues. Its a great idea.

  6. ED = Emergency Department. …. coughs colds sore backs etc that people have usually had for days/weeks are not emergencies

  7. I’m fortunate that I have a GP, however when I was at my doctors surgery last week I enquirer for a new resident in my village if they would take on a new patient, the answer was a resounding NO because they closed their books a couple of years ago. I past the answer on to the new resident here and she told me it was the 6th doctor in the area with the same answer, so I guess under the circumstances if they need to see a doctor then maybe they have no choice than to go to the nearest public hospital.

  8. Make them pay , if they turn up with a non emergency , just stupidity,and inconsiderate.

  9. I consider the Emergency Department is there for emergency’s like car accidents or very sick children. I recently had to go there for a suspected heart attack, when they checked my records it was 42 years since I had last been there with a burst appendix. I suspect many go there for other reasons because the doctor told me that he wished everyone was like me

    • Same with me Libbi. I went to my GP first, who asked me to see him immediately, then he sent me to Emergency… first visit ever. In the next bed to me was a man aged 59 who had been brought straight to emergency by his wife because he wouldn’t stop crying. I thought he looked rather vague and he kept getting out of bed, holding his head and crying. So pitiful he looked but not sure that Emergency was the right place for him. I felt quite stressed about him, which is probably why my heart monitor went a bit haywire for a few seconds!

  10. I always used to go to Emergency if I thought X-rays would be involved. With three sons this occurred quite a few times. The cost and inconvenience of first getting an appointment with a GP then the X-ray people then back at the GP would take more than a day. Over a short period one of my sons broke fingers playing basketball each time he went onto the court. The only other time I have is when travelling interstate and not having a doctor there. Some GPs don’t see casual visitors.

  11. I have only been to emergency deptwhen it’s been in an emergency and it’s been via ambulance one should never log up the system.

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