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NZMA welcomes survey results

NZMA welcomes survey results

The New Zealand Medical Association has welcomed an international study which shows that New Zealand tops the countries surveyed in many aspects of primary health care.

The 2004 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey covers Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 1400 New Zealanders were interviewed for the survey.

The survey shows many positives for New Zealanders, including that New Zealand topped the survey:

• In rating the quality of care received from their doctor as “excellent or very good”,

• In saying that their doctor always listened carefully to them, always explained things in a way they could understand, and always spent enough time with them,

• In having the most people who received GP appointments (and therefore treatment) the same day they were sick and needed medical attention,

• In having the most people who had a doctor or GP they saw regularly,

• In having the most people who find it easy to get care on nights, weekends, or holidays without going to a hospital emergency room.

• In having the lowest proportion of people who had gone to a hospital emergency room (an indicator of how well health care systems are responding to patients’ needs). Of those who went to an emergency room, New Zealanders waited the least time before being treated.

“These results confirm that primary health care in New Zealand is of very high quality, and serves patients well. Although there is always room for improvement, it is heartening to know that we compare so well to similar countries,” said Dr Peter Foley, Chair of the NZMA’s General Practitioner Council.

Of concern was the number of New Zealanders who experienced access problems because of cost during the last year.

“When people say they did not access care because of cost, this is a major problem, but it is the job of the Government to fund better access to care. We are pleased that the Government is moving to address this through the substantial extra funding it is providing to primary health care.

“The extra funding is rolling out progressively to different groups of New Zealanders, and already this year under-18s and over-65s have received extra government funding, meaning that the proportion of GP fees they have to fund from their own pocket is likely to decrease.”

Unlike some of the other countries surveyed, New Zealand’s primary health care system is largely based on GPs running their own independent practices. The NZMA has long stressed that to remain viable, practices must follow sound business principles and charge fees appropriate to their costs.

New Zealand is already facing a future shortage of GPs, and the situation remains critical in many rural areas. Is it therefore vital that GPs can earn a reasonable income from their business.

“Access to care is the responsibility of the Government, and is dependent on the amount of patient subsidies provided. The NZMA is very pleased at the large increases that have been announced in recent years, and we acknowledge that more funding is planned.

“This survey shows there are still access difficulties, and these issues need to be tackled. However, we would not want them to be addressed at the expense of the positive features in the survey (such as people not having to wait six days for a GP appointment).

The survey was carried out before extra funding for over-65s was introduced this year, and it may not have picked up a true proportion of New Zealanders receiving increased subsidies for their primary health care.

“This survey is a useful tool to compare the standard of care in New Zealand with other countries. We look forward to seeing further improvements.”

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