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Hodgson meets with primary health leaders

7 March 2006

Hodgson meets with primary health leaders

Health Minister Pete Hodgson met with leaders from the primary health sector today to prepare for the rollout of affordable doctors visits for 45-64 year olds on 1 July.

"Ensuring low cost doctors visits is central to the government's work to provide opportunity for all New Zealand families," Pete Hodgson said. "New Zealand's primary health care sector is leading the world in efforts to reduce inequalities and in developing community-led disease prevention.

"Primary health care sector leaders met this morning to talk through the rapid changes in the way healthcare has been delivered and funded in the New Zealand since 2002," Pete Hodgson said.

"We had an open discussion around the need for transparency about how additional funding is being spent to ensure low GP fees. The meeting was also an opportunity to talk about trends and issues facing the primary health workforce."

Overall the government has committed to spending $2.2 billion in new money implementing the Primary Healthcare Strategy over the seven years from 2002/03.

In July 2004 and July 2005 funding was invested to improve access for everyone under 24 and everyone aged 65 and over. This year, increased funding will lower GP fees for 45-64 year olds.

In July 2007, lower GP fees will become universal with 25 to 44 year olds receiving the final installment of new funding.

Pete Hodgson said this morning's meeting was his first opportunity as Health Minister to share with primary healthcare leaders his gratitude for the time, energy and ideas they've committed to implementing the Primary Healthcare Strategy.

"The government is committed to its investment in primary healthcare, and committed to maintaining the value of its investment. I'm pleased that we had such a productive meeting with primary healthcare leaders today and I'm grateful for their continued work to improve the health of all New Zealanders."

Message from the Minister

I’ve invited you here today because we’re about to take another significant step towards lowering the cost of health care for a large group of New Zealanders. As you know, on 1 July, the Government is committed to putting a further $110 million into primary health care - specifically into general practice.

We want to make visiting the doctor more affordable: not just a little bit more affordable, but a lot more affordable.

We also want to give you, the leaders of our primary health care services, the opportunity to be both flexible and strategic in how you provide care to your communities and enrollees.

That’s the point of capitated funding.

In my short time as Minister I’ve seen wonderful work going on and I want to express my gratitude for the commitment of time, energy and ideas that you and your organizations have made so far to the implementation of the Primary Health Care Strategy.

I’m keen to see us begin to reward those health services that are really making a difference in their communities. Whether this takes the form of bonus payments or opportunities for further budget management, I’m not sure yet, but I think it’s only fair that those who are going the extra mile are acknowledged in some tangible way. I intend to make some announcements on this in the next few months

* * * * *
You’ll appreciate that the roll-out of this new tranche of primary health care funding in July is going to come under particular scrutiny – not only from my colleagues in Parliament, but from the wider public.

That is why we must have transparency. New Zealanders have a right to know where the money is going and how it is being used.

- We need to be able to be explicit about how much fees will be lowered by,
- And the public needs readily accessible information about the fees that are charged at individual practices

We also need to maintain the value of our investment. There are two sides to this coin. On my side, I am committed to doing what is necessary to continue that.

In exchange, there needs to be a robust Fees Review process that provides for fee increases to be scrutinised and evaluated consistently and equitably before they are approved.

You’ll appreciate that these more explicit requirements are the inevitable quid pro quo for what now is a major investment by this Government in primary health care.

And because I want to be in a position to redirect any funding that is uncommitted after July, everyone who wants to receive the new funding will need to have signed up before July 1.

Apart from stating these particular requirements, I am not going to be involved in the negotiation process. The Government has devolved responsibility for the provision of health services to District Health Boards and PHOs. They are the key players. They know their communities, they know their service providers. The contract by which primary health care funding is delivered is between DHBs and PHOs and both these parties have invested considerable time in developing the contract and making it work. They must work out between them what is a reasonable national arrangement for the disbursement of this funding, and how to make it and other contractual arrangements stick.

Many of you will be going from here to take the first steps in the process of the negotiation of determining this “reasonable arrangement”.

The time frame is quite challenging, I acknowledge. To enable the new funding to be rolled out on July 1, agreements need to be reached by the end of April, I understand.

I certainly don’t under-estimate the work for all of you over the next couple of months. I have asked the Ministry to assist in as many ways as it can. The process may be fraught and occasionally frustrating, but I hope you can continue to keep in mind the bigger picture.

Annette set out the Vision five years ago. Looking forward two years I’d like to be describing New Zealand’s primary health care system as one where

- Every New Zealander has affordable access to primary health care
- General practice is flourishing
- Team work is the cornerstone of New Zealand’s primary health care system, which is probably why . . . . . .
- New Zealand is leading the world in the prevention of diabetes and heart disease
- And most importantly of all, there is much greater equality in health status between the populations of New Zealand.

I believe that these are aspirations that we all share.

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Health


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