The major review of the health system announced yesterday is being welcomed by the primary health sector – particularly the increased focus on primary and community-based care.

Health Minister David Clark yesterday announced that the over-arching review of the health system – which encompasses Labour’s election promise of  a review of primary health care funding – is to look at how the country structures, resources and delivers the $18.2 billion national health system for ‘decades to come’.

The Review terms of reference (ToR) says the increasing pressures on the health system – particularly from the ageing population and growing prevalence of chronic diseases – needed to be addressed by a “greater focus towards primary and community-based care while also maintaining our world-class tertiary care services”. As at present the country was “seeing demand, and resources directed to secondary services grow faster than primary services,” said the ToR.

Dalton Kelly, chief executive of the Rural General Practice Network, said the review was a very positive development that it fully supported.  “It has started to feel as though the country’s health needs, particularly in a rural context, were in competition with each other.”

He said the network would be looking to ensure core rural health issues were well-represented in the review, including adequate training of sufficient volumes of rural doctors and nurses, adequate funding of rural emergency first responder services, and the provision of palliative care in rural communities. “It’s easy for people to forget that rural communities are struggling to access equitable health care services relative to urban centres.”

Dr Tim Malloy, president of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, also welcomed the announcement and said the Ministry must make sure the panel has the resources it needed to deliver a high quality report which has the support of GPs.

“While we appreciate it will take time to do the review properly, we must also ensure the changes announced in the Budget relating to cheaper GP visits for community service card holders, can be delivered while this review takes place,” said Malloy.

“It may be that other interim measures are required to help reduce the workload pressures on general practice teams.”

He said the College would look to the panel review members to ensure the importance of primary care is considered, when deciding how healthcare resources are

“The College has, for some time, pointed out the looming shortage of GPs particularly in rural areas and the unequal health outcomes that are seen particularly amongst Māori and Pasifika communities,” he said.

Professor Jenny Carryer, executive director of the College of Nurses was delighted by the announcement and said that the inclusion of the primary care funding review in a wider system review was “commendable and sensible”.

“I sincerely hope that appropriate people will be chosen for the review panel and that they are courageous and visionary.”

The Review is to present an interim report to Government by July 2019 and a final report by January 2020.

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