What is a GP?
A GP, or general practitioner, is often the first health professional you talk to about your physical and mental health. They are also known as a family doctor or medical practitioner and usually work in a small private practice, clinic or surgery.
GPs care for patients of all ages and advise on health issues including illness, injury, mental health and healthy lifestyle tips. Your GP can also refer you to another doctor or health care professional for more specialised care if necessary.
Why should I see a GP?
Attending a GP practice on a regular basis is important to maintaining and protecting your health. The more comfortable you are with your GP, the easier it will be to talk with them about your health problems and needs. It will also allow your GP to build a detailed medical history for you.
How can I find a GP?
In Australia you can choose which GP practice you attend. To find out what practices are in your area you can:
- ask family and friends for their recommendations
- search the telephone directory or online under ‘medical practitioners’
- search the National Health Services Directory
- speak to local chemists as they often know of nearby GP practices.
Before making a decision you may want to call the practice to ask:
- When is the practice open?
- Is the practice easy to get to? Is it close to public transport, or is there reasonable car parking nearby?
- How long can it take to see a doctor?
- What fees are payable? Does the practice bulk bill?
- Are both male and female doctors available? You may prefer to see a male or female GP for certain health problems.
- Do any of the doctors speak languages other than English?
After hours GP services
Some GPs see patients outside of normal working hours, such as evenings and weekends.
Find out more about GP after hours services.
If your own doctors are unavailable you can telephone healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 for health advice. healthdirect Australia is a 24 hour, 7 day a week health advice line available to anyone calling from within Western Australia. Experienced registered nurses will provide immediate advice on how urgent your problem is and what to do about it.
What will the GP need from me?
Before your appointment, think about why you are visiting the GP and make a list of any questions you have. Find out what you can about your family’s medical history as this can help your GP to identify your health issues.
During the appointment, be honest with your doctor about your concerns. Also remember to tell them about any treatment you are having or medications you are taking.
Do I have to pay to see a GP?
Yes, you may need to pay for your GP appointment. If you are not eligible for Medicare you will pay the full cost.
Some GPs may choose not to charge you for your appointment but will bulk-bill instead. This means Medicare (external site) will pay for your appointment. It is the GP’s decision whether to bulk-bill a patient. Many GPs choose to bulk-bill pensioners and Health Care Card holders.
If your doctor does not bulk-bill, they will give you a patient account. Medicare will pay for some of the cost of your appointment and you pay the remainder to the GP.
Remember to take your Medicare card (external site) to your appointment, and your Health Care Card (external site) if you have one.
Visit the Medicare website (external site) for more information on bulk-billing, patient accounts and how to claim your benefit.
Can I complain about a GP?
Yes, but you are encouraged to first talk to the GP or practice about your concerns.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of this discussion, you can contact the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office (HaDSCO) which provides a free resolution service for complaints about health or disability services in Western Australia. Visit HaDSCO's website (external site) for more information about the complaints process.
You can also notify the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) about a GP’s conduct, health or performance. See the AHPRA website (external site) for more information.
- GPs work in private practices.
- The Australian Government is responsible for GP funding and policy.
- WA Health does not oversee or provide GP services.
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.