General Practice Under Pressure, Says NZMA GP Leader

General practices throughout New Zealand face funding issues, and both GPs and their patients are struggling, says Chair of the New Zealand Medical Association’s General Practitioner Council, Dr Kate Baddock.

Speaking on Radio NZ’s Insight documentary, Dr Baddock says lack of investment in primary care means some GPs will go out of business, and fewer doctors are likely to take up general practice as an option. “And patients are suffering through not being able to access the care they need,” says Dr Baddock.

“The whole funding system needs to be changed to ensure the resources we have are targeted at those who need it most.”

The capitation funding system for primary care (based on the number of patients enrolled by a practice, and their age and sex, rather than their individual need) no longer keeps pace with costs—including higher compliance costs—meaning patients are increasingly paying a greater share of the total cost of general practice services.

Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) funding is available to some GP practices to bring down the fees their patients pay. But this funding is not targeted at individuals who need it, only at practices with high numbers of high-needs patients, says Dr Baddock.

“The Government says that investing in health is a priority, with long-term gains that far outweigh the costs. We need to see that rhetoric converted into action. Our patients deserve no less,” says Dr Baddock.

Insight is broadcast this evening on RNZ National at 9.30pm.