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Health System performing well

Media Release

20 October 2006

Health System performing well

New Zealand's health system continues to perform well overall with improvements in a number of key areas, the latest annual report shows.

The 2005/06 Annual Report, including the Health and Independence Report, was released today by Director-General of Health, Stephen McKernan.

It reveals that the country's health system is efficient and providing value for money when compared internationally. It shows a continued reduction in preventable mortality and that the patient experience of the system is positive - overall patient satisfaction ratings show New Zealanders believe the health services they receive are very good.

" We are seeing improving trends in many of our key priority areas. We have worked hard to remove the barriers for people accessing primary health care by making it more affordable and already there are signs of increased access to these services. That means people are being treated earlier and are less likely to require hospitalisation,'' said Mr McKernan.

"At the same time there are indications that increased spending in mental health services is seeing more people access community mental health services early rather than being admitted to acute hospital units,'' he said.

"Although smoking remains a serious concern, particularly among our Maori and Pacific populations, smoking prevalence is dropping and we want to see that trend continue. "

The report shows New Zealanders' life expectancy continues to improve - a newborn girl can expect to live, on average, 81.7 years and a newborn boy 77.5 years.

The infant mortality rate has decreased from 5.5 deaths per 1000 live births in 2005 to 4.8 per 1000 live births in the year ended June 2006.

The annual report is the Ministry's key accountability document. It includes information on the Ministry's roles and functions, financial performance and outlines progress towards the outcomes identified in the 2005/06 Statement of Intent.

The Health and Independence Report is the Director General's annual report on the state of public health. It draws together information on the progress being made towards strategic goals in the health and disability sector, it looks at successes and achievements as well as the challenges facing the sector.

"In any health system there are things that can and should be done better. While it's important we acknowledge the good work that is being done around the country, equally we are keen to improve our performance in a number of areas, '' said Mr McKernan.

"Immunisation rates have steadily improved since the early 1990s but the Ministry's goal is for 95 per cent of two-year-olds to be fully vaccinated and we are still working towards that.''

"In the area of chronic disease management we want to see more people access the free Get Checked programme for diabetes. We also want to see the numbers achieving good control of their illness continuing to increase.''

"Obesity remains a key priority area and this year the Government announced a $76 million package for the next four years with the aim of reducing obesity.''

The Annual Report 2005/06 including the Health and Independence Report is available on the Ministry of Health's website at:

Key findings of the report include:

- Improved life expectancy - the most recent data (2003–2005) shows a newborn girl can expect to live, on average, 81.7 years, and a newborn boy 77.5 years.

- A decrease in the infant mortality rate - in the year ended June 2006, the infant mortality rate was 4.8 per 1000 live births. This compared to 5.5 deaths per 1000 live births in 2005 and 6.7 deaths per 1000 live births in 1996.

- Orthopaedic and cataract surgery initiatives designed to improve the quality of life for thousands of older New Zealanders have exceeded their targetsThe orthopaedic initiative started in July 2004 and in 2005 an extra 2334 procedures were delivered. The cataract initiative began in July 2005 and in the first six months, 566 additional cataract operations were completed. Provisional results for the 2005/06 year show that the cataract initiative is ahead of target by 330 procedures and orthopaedic operations ahead by 19.

- Another step in the Government's plan to make primary health care more affordable and accessible for all New Zealanders took effect on 1 July 2006 when lower GP fees were rolled out for people aged between 45 and 64 years, providing nearly 700,000 more New Zealanders with access to cheaper doctor visits. From 1 July 2007 all New Zealanders will have lower-cost access to primary care.

- Indicators of hospital care quality have shown improvements in recent years. While the hospital readmissions rate has remained relatively static over the past five years there has been a downward trend in the average length of hospital stay. Hospital mortality rates have declined from 1650 deaths per 100,000 discharges in 2001/02, to just under 1400 deaths per 100,000 discharges in 2004/05.

- The continuing development of community mental health services has resulted in signs that more people are accessing community based services earlier and therefore not needing to be admitted to acute based hospital services.

- The total Vote Health in 2005/06 was $9.7 billion, rising to $10.64 billion in 2006/07 (exclusive of GST), which represents about 21 per cent of Government expenditure for the year.

- Obesity is an ongoing concern - about a fifth of New Zealanders are reported to be obese and in 2006 the Government announced $76 million in new funding over the next four years to help reduce obesity.

- Elective surgery discharges: the current elective services policy seeks to ensure that patients with the greatest need and ability to benefit are seen first. The number of case-weighted discharges (a measure which takes into account the complexity of the operation) has increased between 2004/05 and 2005/06 by 6.3 per cent.

- Cigarette smoking remains a leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand. In 2004 an estimated 23.4 per cent of adult New Zealanders smoked. However, cigarette consumption per capita fell almost 16 percent from 2002 to 2004, one of the biggest decreases in the OECD.

- The total avoidable mortality rate decreased by about 40 per cent from 1980 to 2003. During that same time, the rate of non-avoidable mortality decreased by about 20 per cent.

- A steady decline in cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality: CVD accounts for approximately 40% of total disease mortality and is one of the most preventable of chronic diseases. The steady decline in cardiovascular disease mortality for the total population is a reflection of improvements in smoking, diet and control of blood cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as improved treatment of coronary heart disease and stroke. However, the widening gaps between Maori (and Pacific) and European/Other CVD mortality rates remain a concern.


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