Background: The population of Australia is ageing. We sought to examine the impact of this demographic trend on the demography of general practices.
Methods: Descriptive statistics of Medicare claims and census data, 1996-2010.
Results: There have been changes in the demography of general practice patients commensurate with changes in the national demography. The proportion of patient visits made by those aged >65 years increased from 18.3% to 23.3%, an absolute increase of 5% but a relative increase of 27.3%. In contrast, the proportion of patient visits to general practices decreased by 16.4% (relative decrease) for those aged 0-4 years and 28.9% (relative decrease) for those aged 5-14 years.
Discussion: As visits for children become a smaller fraction of overall general practice visits, the continued comfort level and competency to provide primary care of acute and chronic illness in children as well as recognition of abnormal development may be affected. To ensure the adequate provision of services to this paediatric population, careful ongoing monitoring of general practices, referral patterns and comfort levels in the care of children must be undertaken.