25 June 2008

General Practitioners are annoyed that GP fees are once again being used as a political football by a Minister of Health, the New Zealand Medical Association says.

"We know it's election year, but something as important as access to primary health care should not be the subject of emotive and misleading statements," said NZMA Chairman Dr Peter Foley.

He was commenting on a statement made by Minister of Health David Cunliffe today that GP fees would "sky rocket" if the current fees review system was not in place.

"Research shows that General Practice provides high quality care to patients and the community, and has a great track record in passing on the benefits of increased government subsidies to patients. This has been confirmed by Ministry of Health, and Consumer Institute surveys, said Dr Foley.

"The expensive and bureaucratic fees review system, introduced by this Government, is unnecessary. Where it has been applied, it has overwhelmingly shown that fee increases have been found to be reasonable.

"It is a scare tactic to the public, and pure electioneering, to suggest that GP fees would rise unreasonably either now or under a future Government."

"Improving access to Primary Care services has been an important aim of this Government, and one we completely agree with. We have offered to work with the Government to ensure that this is achieved.

Dr Foley said general practices are small businesses, in the main, delivering a vital community based health service, and they must remain viable to do so. This means that they must continue to be free to set and adjust their fees in line with their business needs, in an environment of increasing costs.