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What is primary healthcare?

If you’ve ever been to a local doctor, dietitian, or physiotherapist, these are just some of the health professionals that provide primary healthcare.

Primary healthcare is the part of Australia’s health system that people use most. It is the first point of healthcare delivered to people within their local community – and is provided outside of hospitals.

It includes first point of call services for:

  • Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of ill-health, and
  • Ongoing management of chronic disease.

Primary healthcare includes a range of services provided by health professionals such as general practitioners (also known as ‘GPs’ and doctors), practice nurses, allied health (eg. podiatrists or speech pathologists) and community health workers.

A strong primary healthcare system is crucial to ensuring that people can get the health care they need, when they need it, where they need it. It helps people better manage their health and plays an important role in preventing disease.

Who provides primary healthcare?

General Practitioners

Your general practitioner (GP) would usually be your first point of contact with the primary healthcare system (except in the case of medical emergencies, where you may have contact with Ambulance or an Emergency Department).

It’s important to have a regular GP, who you can call on for any health concerns or queries you may have.

Your GP is someone with a broad understanding of general health issues. If they feel the problem you have is more complex, they will refer you to a medical specialist for more in-depth treatment.

Having a regular GP means they can be across your individual conditions, allergies, medication needs, and are best placed to help you make decisions about your healthcare.

Health conditions are not always isolated and can sometimes be interrelated. Your regular GP will be best qualified to assess your health as they are aware of your lifestyle, work schedule, routine and habits. It takes time for a GP to get to know their patient well, but by using a regular GP you are satisfied with, you can be assured of the best continuity of care.

Allied Health

There are a range of other healthcare professionals who can work closely with General Practitioners to deliver a holistic approach to your healthcare. These people are known as Allied Health Professionals or Allied Health Providers.

Allied Health professionals are healthcare providers who are separate from nursing and medicine. They work together often with doctors in a healthcare team to support a person’s medical care and well-being.

Reproduced with permission from Healthy Community website www.healthycommunity.org.au