Adults – What kinds of health services are there?
The health system is complex, and it can be hard to find the help a person with intellectual disability needs. This fact sheet tries to help you through this maze by explaining what health services there are.
Who provides health care?
Usually, the GP is the starting point for health care. If the problem is complicated, GPs can refer you to:
Specialist doctors and allied health care providers work in government services and their own practices.
What will it cost?
Some health services are provided free by government agencies including public hospitals and Community Health Centres. Other health care providers charge for their services.
If a person has private health insurance, this also helps with some health costs, eg private hospital admissions. But, the insurance may not cover the full charge.
It is very important to talk to the health professional about costs before treatment starts, so that you know how much it will be and can talk about options. For hospital treatment, there is often a choice of waiting a long time for free treatment in a public hospital or paying for a private hospital.
Allied health services
Some of these are available for free in community health centres and hospitals, and in community support teams and residential services of the Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC). Other allied health professionals work privately and charge a fee. Sometimes, Medicare can help with this where a GP makes the referral.
Allied health services include physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers and:
Chronic disease services
A disease is chronic if it is long term and leads to progressive deterioration in health. For example, chronic heart and respiratory diseases and diabetes.
NSW Health has some chronic disease programs:
The NSW Ombudsman has seen many examples of these programs not being provided to people with disabilities. So, ask the doctor or hospital about these programs if you think they might be relevant to a person’s needs.
It is a good idea to have a regular chemist. They can recommend basic treatment for common illnesses and package prescription medications in blister packs, to make sure the correct daily medication dose is given.
Most dentists work privately but some work in Public Oral Health Services provided by the NSW Government.
Specialised health services for people with intellectual disability
Some health services specialise in complex health problems of people with intellectual disability. These exist to backup and advise GPs, not to take over medical care from mainstream health services.
New 24 hour phone advice line
You can phone healthdirect Australia at any time and obtain free health information and advice from a nurse.
The Ambulance Service provides emergency treatment and takes injured people to a nearby hospital. Call “000” and ask the operator for an ambulance. If you are not sure how serious the situation is, it is okay to call anyway. In some cases, the ambulance service will also transport people to medical appointments. There may be a cost for some services.
For more information
Ambulance Service NSW
Community health centres and public hospitals
Community support teams, ADHC -
The fact sheet contains general information only and does not take into account individual circumstances. It should not be relied on for medical advice. We encourage you to look at the information in this fact sheet carefully with your health professional to decide whether the information is right for you.