24 May 2012

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) supports initiatives announced in today’s Budget to enhance the quality delivery of health services and to strengthen preventive health to improve health outcomes.

“We recognise that the Government is operating under financial constraints so it is particularly pleasing to see that health has received the largest increase in government spending,” says NZMA Deputy Chair Dr Mark Peterson.

“We are encouraged to see initiatives that focus on preventive health, particularly in relation to children with money committed to strengthen maternity services, Plunketline and WellChild services, as well as free after-hours doctors’ visits for under-sixes. The evidence clearly shows that good health in childhood will often determine health status throughout one’s life. It is vital we work to improve child health statistics and reduce preventable illnesses and hospital admissions.”

“Social factors, such as housing, play a major part in influencing health so the announcement that more resources will go towards the Warm-Up New Zealand home insulation fund is welcomed.”

“In terms of focusing on prevention we commend the Government for the tough stance it has taken on tobacco and support the increase in tobacco excise taxes.”

“The price increases to date have led to a reduction in smoking rates, and less uptake of smoking among adolescents. As doctors we see first hand the detrimental effect that smoking has on an individual’s health. The Government’s goal of a smoke free New Zealand by 2025 is one the NZMA fully endorses, and price rises along with other measures such as plain tobacco packaging, are moving us closer to the smokefree vision.”

Extra Government funding over the next four years for more elective operations and scans, and improved cancer services, will further reduce waiting times for patients.

“It is particularly pleasing to see the Government investing in IT systems to facilitate faster access to diagnostic tests to assess whether patients need an operation or treatment. As the health sector moves towards offering more health services at the community level, and better integrating community and hospital care, better information gathering and sharing is essential.”

Dr Peterson says that the NZMA is pleased that a recommendation from the NZ Cardiac Network will be implemented for a $4 million national register of patients treated for heart conditions, to improve the quality of care across hospitals. “We would like to see more clinical networks formed into the future and clinical leadership opportunities.”