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Improved Access To Outpatient Services

22 May 2002

Waiting times for elective surgery have improved in some areas, but not in others according to the Ministry of Health.

The figures are contained in the Elective Services Second Quarterly Report for 1 October ? 31 December 2001 which is available on

The report shows that over 360,000 people received outpatient services in the first quarter. Of those referred for a specialist assessment, 84 percent were seen within the Government's six month minimum standard (compared with 69 percent this time last year).

Significant progress was evident, with seven DHBs, including Nelson Marlborough and Tairawhiti, seeing over 90 percent of their patients within six months of referral. In addition, 63 percent of patients were seen within two months - again an improvement over the previous year when only 52 percent were seen within two months.

Ministry of Health Principal Medical Advisor Dr Rob Buist was pleased with efforts to ensure all patients have a plan of care and certainty of treatment status. Numbers of people on residual waiting lists without certainty or a plan of care, decreased to 12,428 this quarter (1,344 fewer than last year).

"Ten DHBs, including Auckland, Northland and Otago, have demonstrated their commitment to patients by completely clearing their residual waiting lists."

However, capacity problems including staff shortages in critical positions such as Intensive Care Units in some DHBs resulted in an 11 percent increase in the number of patients waiting longer than six months for treatment. The Ministry has asked the Boards concerned to provide assurances on actions being taken to improve the number of operations.

Dr Buist said the Ministry increased funding for elective operations last year and funding is at a similar level this year. However, approximately 1,100 fewer elective operations have been performed so far this year than for the same period last year. The Ministry is working with DHBs to help maintain the number of operations being performed nationally.

This quarterly report is to be the last in this paper-based, manually compiled format. Information systems have now improved to the point that automated monthly updates of most of the data are possible. These monthly updates are now available on the Ministry of Health website ( for public access.


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