Labour vows to review health targets

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 05:00 16/08/2014

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Labour says it will refocus the current national health targets and undertake an independent review of qualification for elective surgery, if elected next month.

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 on at-risk people.

Labour's health spokeswoman Annette King, who yesterday released Labour's full health policy, 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 wide-ranging reforms measuring DHB performance, to fit under eight priority areas.

They are reducing health inequalities, preventing and managing non-communicable diseases such as obesity and diabetes, primary health care, mental health, oral health, children's health, older people's health and improving the health workforce.

Labour said it would invest $1 billion every year in vital public services, mainly directed toward health and education.

"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, Health Minister Tony 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, as at December last year.

In the Budget, Ryall said $110 million would be spent over the next four years to boost elective surgery numbers further, including hip and knee replacements.

That included $10m over four years for obesity surgery.

Yesterday's release is Labour's full policy, after it released the centrepiece at its campaign launch last Sunday.

Leader David 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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Ryall yesterday dismissed the policy as an election bribe, which was unaffordable.

"Labour is promising everything to everyone.

"They know they can't afford most of their promises as they have conveniently left out almost all of the costings," he said.

- Stuff

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