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After-hours medical deputising services for older people

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Older people need GPs who know them well

Medical deputising services are invaluable, responding to large numbers of after-hours calls, particularly for older people at home and in residential aged care (RAC). Without these services, emergency departments and ambulance services would be much busier than they are now. The article in this issue of the MJA by Joe and colleagues1 reviews 357 112 bookings logged by one such service, the Melbourne Medical Deputising Service (MMDS), over a 5-year period (2008–2012).

The proportion of general practitioners using deputising services increased from 38% in 2005–06 to 48% in 2014–15.2 The data presented by Joe et al show a concomitant increase in the number of home and nursing home visits by the MMDS for those over 70 years of age, with the booking rate rising over the 5-year period from 33 to 40 per 1000 people over 70 years of age for home visits, and from 121 to 168 per 1000 people for RAC visits.

The reasons for this increase are undoubtedly complex, and require further examination. They include the increase in the size of the population of older people, and government initiatives that encourage GPs to provide after-hours services, either directly or through deputising services. The annual collection of data on 100 000 GP consultations in Australia known as BEACH has revealed…

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