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Annette King: NGO Forum

Annette King: NGO Forum

As you all know, the theme of this forum is "PHOs and NGOs Working Together To Improve Health Outcomes: Opportunities and Issues." I'm particularly pleased that you have been discussing PHOs - which is, of course, a subject close to my heart - and the vast potential there is for PHOs and NGOs to work together to really make a difference and improve health outcomes.

Thank you very much to the NGO Working Group for inviting me here today. It's a great pleasure to be at the forum because I believe it marks another key milestone in the positive ongoing relationship between the Government and the NGO sector.

I must say, it is really heartening to see so many health and disability NGOs here.

As you all know, the theme of this forum is "PHOs and NGOs Working Together To Improve Health Outcomes: Opportunities and Issues." I'm particularly pleased that you have been discussing PHOs - which is, of course, a subject close to my heart - and the vast potential there is for PHOs and NGOs to work together to really make a difference and improve health outcomes.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of the NGO sector to the health of New Zealanders. Of course, this contribution amounts to far more than simply what is contracted and paid for through the system. The intersectoral work and integration that is part and parcel of the way the NGO sector works, and has worked for many years, can set a good example to the whole sector and wider community.

You will all be aware of the "Statement of Government Intentions For An Improved Community Government Relationship". This statement is based on the principle of building strong and respectful relationships between Government Departments and communities. This forum, and the follow-up work done jointly by the Ministry of Health and your elected NGO Working Group, is an excellent example of such relationships in practice and of the Government's intentions becoming a reality.

I want to say a sincere thank you to all of you - NGOs and those at the Ministry of Health - for your commitment to this relationship.

One of the best things about forums such as today's is that they allow us to focus on issues that are common to a very large section of the community and voluntary sector. This forum has provided a valuable opportunity for you to share among yourselves, and with people from Primary Health Organisations and the Ministry, the successes, barriers and possible solutions to PHOs and NGOs working together successfully.

It is probably timely to point out that the NGO and primary health sector receive a third of all Vote Health funding. I hope these and future discussions will build strong and collaborative relationships between PHOs and NGOs, which is obviously important given your shared goals for the health of New Zealanders. In other words, you need each other - one can not do without the other.

Events such as this forum allow that interdependence to be recognised and improved upon, so that the co-operation and collaboration necessary to improve the health of New Zealanders is achieved.

What I actually intend to do today is sit back and listen, so I can hear your views and suggestions. I am looking forward to doing that shortly, but first I want to make a few comments about PHOs.

PHOs are the local provider organisations through which DHBs will implement the Primary Health Care Strategy. This strategy is integral to achieving improvements in health status and focuses on:

• Greater emphasis on population health, health promotion and preventative care

• Community involvement in the governing processes of the PHO

• Involving a range of professionals and encouraging multidisciplinary approaches to decision making

• Improving accessibility, affordability and appropriateness of services

• Improving co-ordination and continuity of care

• Providing and funding services according to a population's needs as opposed to fee for services when people are unwell.

I have been delighted at the success of PHO establishment. As of January 1st 2004, there are now 59 PHOs set up around New Zealand, with an estimated two and a half million people enrolled.

One of the key measures of whether a PHO is successful in implementing the Primary Health Strategy is how well it is working with other providers to co-ordinate the right services for the right people.

It is also important that there is co-operation and co-ordination between heath professionals, both internally and externally, to best meet the needs of their communities and to improve continuity of care.

The new style of primary health care will require using skills and competencies in a new way, as well as a higher level of collaboration between health professionals. I am sure all health professionals will relish the challenge to develop these effective working relationships.

I will be interested to hear of your experiences of working with PHOs. I know that it takes more than a change in the system to change historical attitudes, and I am keen to hear of the successes that you have had as well as any problems and possible solutions.

Finally, I am aware that, over the past few months, there has been a great deal of discussion in the NGO sector about the place of advocacy and lobbying in contracts. I know the Director-General of Health, Karen Poutasi, has already touched on this earlier today, but I just wanted to add some of my own thoughts to the discussion.

I want to emphasise that I fully recognize that NGOs have a legitimate and important role in seeking to influence political opinion. This is not in question, and has been a traditional role of NGOs for many years.

The question we are jointly grappling with, however, is the funding and contracting environment in which this political activity takes place. I am aware that the Ministry has already had discussions on these issues with a number of you and your representative organizations. Following these initial discussions you can expect, quite soon, a consultation paper canvassing these important issues. I encourage you all to take part in this important debate.

Once again, thank you for giving me the chance to be involved in today's forum, and thank you for coming along to support it. I trust that there will be many more such occasions. I now look forward to listening to your presentations, which I'm sure will raise plenty of interesting points.

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