The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging women to book a health check with their GP as MBS data reveals a drop in the number of female attendances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The RACGP has partnered with Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Week, running from 7 to 11 September, and is asking women and their GPs to use the week to review and schedule any health checks that may have been missed over the past months.
MBS data reveals a decrease of nearly 24% in the number of female face-to-face GP attendances from March to June 2020, compared to the same period last year. For the most common GP item number 23, a consultation lasting less than 20 minutes, the decrease in female attendances was more than 26%.
There was also a near 14% decrease in select women’s health MBS services from March to June 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
A number of telehealth items have been created for women’s health including, pregnancy support, antenatal and postnatal attendances. When these services and the face-to-face equivalents are combined and compared to face-to-face services provided in March to June 2019, there has been a 4% decrease, even when telehealth is factored in.
RACGP spokesperson Dr Lara Roeske urged women to use Women’s Health Week as a reminder to put their health first.
“We know that women can tend to put the needs of their loved ones before themselves – on top of that many have faced additional stress, anxiety and financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My message to women across Australia is this: even in the most difficult times, it’s important to take care of your own health and wellbeing.
“For those who may have missed a scheduled health check in the past months, Women’s Health Week serves as a valuable reminder – call your GP and book that appointment today.
“GPs have been very concerned to see the drop off in patients during the pandemic – the problem is widespread, we’re seeing it across all genders and cultural backgrounds and it has serious implications. The last thing we want is patients delaying important medical care and health problems becoming worse.
“When it comes to women’s health, there are particular concerns. Pregnant women, for instance, need regular health checks which are essential to keep up to ensure the health and wellbeing of both mother and child.
Dr Roeske, a former Chair of the Sexual Health Medicine Network, stressed that women should know their GP is there for them, and more accessible than ever.
“The overwhelming majority of GPs are offering telehealth appointments and it’s safe to visit your clinic if you need to go in-person – general practices have implemented a range of infection prevention and control measures for patient and staff safety.
“So there is no need to delay, now’s the time to put your health and wellbeing first. If you’ve delayed an appointment or have a new concern, call your GP today.”
Held annually in September, Women’s Health Week is the biggest week in Australia focusing on good health for all women and girls in Australia (womenshealthweek.com.au).
Janet Michelmore, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Acting CEO and Patron, says Jean Hailes is pleased to be partnering with RACGP for this important health awareness campaign. “Health checks are such an important part of disease prevention, and not only help you stay healthy, but can improve your overall health and wellbeing. Hence, our Women’s Health Week 2020 theme – health checks”, says Ms Michelmore.
“It’s important for women and their GPs to have access to the same practical and easy-to-understand health information so we encourage everyone to sign up to the week to receive five days of free evidence-based health articles, videos, quizzes and tools.”