Labour promises to review DHB targets

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 15:49 15/08/2014
Annette King
Michelle Cooke
THE PLAN: Labour's health spokeswoman Annette King says current health targets are too narrow.

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Labour has released its full health policy, announcing it would refocus the current National Health Targets and undertake an independent review of the criteria to qualify for elective surgeries. 

District Health Boards are required to report regularly on six national health targets, which include reducing the time spent waiting in Emergency Departments, and performing more elective surgeries. 

The other targets range from helping people to quit smoking, boosting immunisation levels in children, reducing wait times for cancer treatment and performing more diabetes checks in at-risk people.

Labour's health spokeswoman Annette King today said the targets were too narrow and did not deal with the "root causes of poor health".

"Prevention and early intervention are far more cost effective than picking up the pieces down the track."

Labour would review current targets, and introduce more widesweeping reforms measuring DHB performance, to fit under eight priority areas.

Those were reducing health inequalities, preventing and managing non-communicable diseases liek obesity and diabetes, primary health care, mental health, oral health, children's health, older persons' health and improving the health workforce.

"We will also undertake an independent review of clinical thresholds for elective surgery which have seen patients having to put up with more pain than ever, before they can access publicly-funded operations," King said.

Elective surgery figures have increased over the past five years. The number of patients receiving elective surgery had lifted from 118,000 in 2008 to 158,000 in 2013 - an increase of 40,000, Ryall has said.

But the target has been controversial and recent paid research found 280,000 Kiwis met the clinical threshold for elective surgery, but only 110,000 had been formally placed on a waiting list at December last year.

At the budget, Health Minister Tony Ryall announced $110 million of new money over the next four years to boost elective surgery numbers further, including hip and knee replacements.

That included $10 million over four years for bariatric surgery.

Today's release is the Labour's full policy, of which it released the centrepiece at its campaign launch last Sunday. 

Cunliffe promised 1.7 million people - 40 per cent of the population - would be eligible for free doctors visits and prescriptions under a Labour-led government.

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That major health package includes free doctors visits and prescriptions for almost 700,000 people aged over 65 at a cost of $120m.

Children up to 13 and pregnant women, who are currently entitled to free primary health care in relation to their pregnancy but not other medical needs, will also get free GP and prescriptions at a cost of $20m.

About 60,000 expectant mothers would also get free dental care.

Labour said a big expansion of the Care Plus scheme would expand it from just under 200,000 patients to about 440,000.

The $90m Care Plus scheme boost will include free prescriptions, costing about $30m. It provides four free doctors visits a year.

However the criteria to qualify for the extended Care Plus will be set later.

- Stuff

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