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New Zealanders most satisfied with doctors

21 May 2002 Media Statement

New Zealanders most satisfied with doctors

New Zealanders rate our doctors higher than overseas counterparts do theirs, and more of us think the health system they work in is improving, according to an international survey.

The Commonwealth Fund 2001 International Health Policy Survey was undertaken early last year in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

"The survey shows 67 percent of New Zealanders gave the overall standard of the medical care they received in the last year an excellent or very good rating. This was the highest of all five countries and is a tribute to our doctors," Health Minister Annette King said.

Ms King said a majority of respondents in all five countries were dissatisfied with aspects of their health systems and favoured substantial changes, but fewer New Zealanders were dissatisfied than in the previous survey, in 1998. In the latest survey, 20 percent agreed that the health system should be completely rebuilt, compared with 32 percent in 1998, with a corresponding increase (from 9 to 18 percent) in the number who felt it needed only minor changes.

"There also remained a large number of New Zealanders who said there was a need for fundamental change, which quite possibly reflects dissatisfaction with access and affordability. This was greatest among those with below-average incomes, and Maori."

Ms King said results of the survey confirmed the priority being given to implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy, recently allocated $400 million in new funding over three years.

"Improving and extending primary health care is the mechanism the Government has chosen to address the most pressing problems of access and affordability, and in the longer-term to improve the health of all New Zealanders."

The survey shows that each country has its own set of concerns: citizens in the UK complain about long queues for non-emergency hospital care and elective procedures; Canadians say they have difficulty accessing medical specialists; Australians report problems getting medical care on nights and weekends and affording prescription drugs; and people in the US have problems with inequities in access, quality, and cost.

"This illustrates the complexity of organising health services. Each of these countries organises its health services differently and they all have problems to overcome," Ms King said.

"The positive shift in public perceptions in New Zealand may reflect the latest reforms under the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act (2000), which has introduced more local participation and public engagement in decision making."

Ms King said the Government had recently funded a three-year evaluation of changes to the health sector, the first time this had been done.

"Feedback from the evaluation will be ongoing, so that it can be built in as implementation of the Government's health policies so that our health system can be fine tuned."

An article on the survey is available on the Health Affairs website:


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