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Greater certainty for electives patients

7 March 2006

Greater certainty for electives patients

The number of New Zealanders with conditions that meet thresholds for elective surgery, but who do not have a guarantee of treatment has fallen by more than a third, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said today.

Official health statistics show that in the 16 months to December last year, the number of patients who met electives thresholds, but who had not been given certainty that they would receive treatment fell from 15,520 to 9,926 – a fall of 36 per cent.

Pete Hodgson said the figures were welcome news that changes made by the government and District Health Boards (DHBs) were providing both greater clarity and timeliness for elective patients throughout New Zealand.

"This government inherited a system where people were left on waiting lists without ever knowing if they would be treated," Pete Hodgson said. "This wasn't fair to patients.

"Although the policy around certainty of treatment was introduced under the previous government, it wasn't until the change of government in 1999 that transparency became a real priority. We made increased compliance with transparency rules a top priority for DHBs and introduced a new centralised booking system to make it happen.

"By the time all DHBs had started fully using the new system in August 2004, around 15,000 people who met the threshold requirements for an elective procedure found themselves without a treatment guarantee.

"While this caused obvious distress for patients and their families, the government judged it to be a far better situation than unfairly raising expectations that they would receive treatment.

"To see the number of patients without certainty having fallen so dramatically is an indication that our changes have achieved a much more fair and transparent system.

"We know we still have more work to do to help New Zealanders get the procedures they need. Over the next three years we will fund an extra 7,500 cataract procedures and an additional 10,000 major joint procedures."

ENDS

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