Mental health, patient safety and inequity in health care remain issues which need to be worked on the Health Quality and Safety Commission has told new Health Minister David Clark.

In a briefing document sent to Clark, the commission identified the improvements made and the areas where more work was required.

The report said mental health services were “clearly struggling” with New Zealand still having one of the highest rates of youth suicide in the OECD.

While patient safety was improving, there were still instances of patient harm and ongoing effort was needed to prevent that, it also said.

The commission’s adverse events reporting programme was fundamental to promoting a transparent culture focused on learning from adverse events, in order to reduce the risk of mistakes being repeated.

The briefing paper also pointed out that inequity remained an issue with Maori and Pacific people two to three times more likely to die from conditions which might have been prevented by effective and timely care.

Increasing economic disparity was also having an affect on the health of young people with child poverty now a leading problem for New Zealand, it said.

But, while there was plenty of work still to be done, the commission has already had successes.

Since 2010 there have been 695 fewer deaths of children aged between 28 days and 24 years and 86 fewer stillborn babies since 2010.

Fewer older people had been admitted to hospital as an emergency more than once while there were 378 fewer blood clots (deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism) associated with surgery since January 2013.

New Zealand was the first country to achieve a national reduction in falls in hospitals with 85 fewer falls resulting in a broken hip since June 2013 and significantly reduced numbers of patients undergoing hip or knee replacements or cardiac surgery who suffered from surgical site infections.

“In financial terms, we estimate that improvements we have facilitated have avoided around $90 million of unnecessary health system expenditure, which can be funnelled back to patient care. Further, reduced harm and avoided deaths have provided an estimated $400 million of value to New Zealanders,” the briefing paper said.


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