What is a GP?
A general practitioner (GP) is a doctor who has completed education and training in general practice (meaning they treat general health issues). They are often also referred to as a family doctor or local doctor. They have knowledge on a broad range of health issues and are usually the first person you see when you have an issue or concern regarding your health.
GPs can treat illnesses, provide health screenings, provide medical advice and refer you to specialist health professionals that focus on specific health issues.
Common reasons why people don’t see a GP include costs, fears of long wait times, and a lack of understanding of what services they offer. If you can’t afford to see a doctor, you can still get the help you need. See the options below to understand how you can do this, and what other health professionals you can see.
When you know your options, you can make informed decisions about your health and get the care you need, when you need it.
If you notice any unusual changes in your body, it is important to get them checked by a doctor. Finding cancer early gives the best chance of treating it. Early detection saves lives.
What is a bulk billing GP?
A bulk billing GP is a doctor who provides their services at no cost to their patients. Instead of paying for the appointment, the GP bills Medicare directly. Medicare is Australia’s national health care system that works to provide affordable health care for Australians.
Sometimes there is a gap between the amount covered by Medicare and the cost health professionals charge for their services. This is called an out-of-pocket cost. Check with your GP before your appointment to find out if there will an out-of-pocket cost you will need to pay.
It is called ‘bulk billing’ as the GP bills Medicare ‘in bulk’, meaning they bill Medicare for the many services they offer to the community. Do not assume all your appointments will be bulk billed; it is important to check before each appointment.
Health services that can be bulk billed include:
- Visits to GPs and other specialist health professionals. This can include visits to your GP for cancer screening.
- Scans such as x-rays and tests such as blood and urine tests
To have an appointment bulk billed, you will need to have a valid Medicare card and will need to present it to the reception staff at the general practice you attend. Some services may also require you to present a pension card or health care card if applicable.
To enrol with Medicare and get a Medicare card, you will need to meet certain eligibility criteria such as being an Australian citizen or a permanent resident and will need to provide identification documents such as a passport or birth certificate. Enrolling with Medicare can also provide you with benefits such as free or lower cost hospital treatments, some prescription medication, and mental health care.
Where can I find a bulk billing GP near me?
You can find a bulk billing GP at different types of services across Victoria include:
- General practice clinics – where a group of GPs provide medical services to the community.
- Community health centres – sometimes bulk bill at certain times of the week for eligible people.
- Aboriginal health services – provide low cost or free GP services.
- Priority Primary Care Centres – are state-wide and provide free care for urgent but not emergency care.
There are several ways to find a bulk billing GP in your area. You can:
- Call local general practices and medical centres and enquire if they offer bulk billing services and eligibility criteria. You can also visit their website if available and check the services offered.
- Conduct an online search for services in your area.
- Use online search services such as HealthDirect and HotDoc
- Ask your usual GP if they can bulk bill all or certain visits
Search the My Cancer Guide to find organisations that can assist you in locating
Don't delay: early detection saves lives
Health care professionals are available to support you to find cancer early.
If you spot any unexplained changes in your body but are worried about wait times to see your GP, call the practice and reception will assess your needs and level of urgency. They may be able to help you get in to see your GP as soon as possible.
If you need to talk to someone about a symptom, you can speak with our experienced cancer nurses on 13 11 20.
Questions to ask about this service
When looking at a service it is important to ask questions about how the service works before you decide to engage with them. Below is a list of questions you might like to ask when enquiring about a service.
Do I need a referral?
No, you do not need a referral to see a bulk-billing GP, however you do need to have a valid Medicare card, and sometimes a health care card and pension card if they apply to you.
Is there a wait time?
There may be wait times to see a bulk-billing GP. If you are concerned about a change in your health, reach out to the practice and they will be able to assess how soon you need to see a doctor. There may also be a nurse at the practice that you could ask to see instead of a doctor.
If the concern is urgent, you may be directed to present to a hospital emergency department.
If the issue is non-life-threatening, you may be directed to contact services such as Nurse-on-Call, a helpline that provides health advice from a registered nurse, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED) is the first service of its kind in Australia and offers virtual care from emergency doctors and nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is no referral required, and all patients can connect directly from any personal device with a camera.
What if my doctor does not offer bulk-billing?
If your usual GP does not offer bulk-billing services, and you require a visit to be bulk-billed, you can ask your usual GP if they can bulk-bill particular visits, or you may need to seek out other bulk-billing GPs.
Do specialist services also offer bulk-billing?
Some specialist services do offer bulk-billing. Ask your GP if they can refer you to a specialist that can offer bulk-billing.
Services like Healthdirect also allow you to search for bulk-billing specialist services.
Are bulk-billing services offered through telehealth?
You may be able to make a telehealth appointment with a bulk-billing GP if you have seen them face to face before. Usually, you will need to visit your GP in person before they offer you telehealth appointments that can be bulk billed.
Bulk billing GPs in regional Victoria
If you live in regional or remote Victoria, there may not be a bulk billing service in your area. It is important to check with your local general practices whether they offer bulk billing services. You may need to travel to see a bulk billing GP if there are none offered in your area.
Search the My Cancer Guide to find services near you.
Other health professionals you can see
There are other health professionals that can help you when you have a concern about your health depending on what type of you concern you have. These services may or may not be bulk billed; it is important to check before attending your appointment.
If cost is an issue, you can ask your doctor for a Chronic Disease GP Management Plan which is a Medicare initiative that enables those with a chronic medical condition to access allied health services.
||How they can help you
|Community Health Centres
||Community health centres offer low cost or free medical and allied health services.
||Pharmacists can support you if you need to get up to date with cancer screenings (including the HPV vaccination) and speak to you about changes or unexplained symptom
||While your optometrist can support you with regular eye checks, they can also help look at your face and skin for changes.
While your dentist can support you with regular check-ups, they can also support you if you notice a lesion or cut in your mouth which is new or unexplained. When you notice anything different, call your local clinic and explain the change and they may be able to see you sooner than you think.
Dental Health Services Victoria offer low cost and free dental services for people in Victoria who meet the eligibility requirements.
|Nurse Cervical Screening Providers
||These specially trained nurses can support all women and people with a cervix with cervical screening.
|Bush Nursing Centres
||If you live in rural Victoria, you may need to visit a bush nursing centre rather than a general practice. You can locate your nearest bush nursing centre by visiting the Victorian Government website.
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