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Hodgson: NGO - Ministry of Health Forum

Health and Disability Sector NGO - Ministry of Health Forum

Thank you all for welcoming me to the tenth Health and Disability Sector NGO - Ministry of Health Forum. Firstly, I would like to thank the NGO Working Group for the invitation to speak here today and for organising the event.

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The theme of today's forum is 'NGO Governance'. I know that this is a particularly relevant topic for Non Government Organisations (NGOs), whose Board members often face complex challenges in governing their organisations, having to manage the tensions between representing their own community's interests and being efficient providers of contracted services.

In the Statement of Government Intentions this Labour-led Government promised it would respect the independence of the community and voluntary sector. This means that it is not my role to stand here today and dictate how NGOs should govern their organisations.

I would, however, like to encourage you to make the most of the opportunities you will be given at today's Forum to learn more about the principles of good governance and how to put these into practice. I am sure you will agree with me that well-governed non-government organisations ultimately help enable a well-functioning health and disability system where services can be delivered successfully and the health and well-being of our people can be improved.

My knowledge of the health and disability sector has been growing over this past year in my role as Minister of Health, but I would like to acknowledge the many years of experience that collectively you all bring to the table and I encourage you to share this experience with others today.

I am particularly pleased to see a good turn-out of representatives from the Ministry of Health and hope that their presence will allow for some productive discussions along the way and that through your discussions you will be able to make progress toward appropriate solutions to the current challenges you are facing in the delivery of health and disability services.

And I do acknowledge that NGOs are facing challenges in a number of areas. Areas that I am aware of include:

• workforce development
• prices paid for NGO services
• contracting
• participation in consultation
• the uncertainty some organisations have about their role in the implementation of the Primary Health Care Strategy and their relationship with PHOs.

Please rest assured that the challenges that you have identified have not gone unnoticed and that steps have already been taken in a number of these areas to begin addressing your concerns.

For example, in 2004, the Mental Health Workforce Development Programme (funded by the Ministry of Health) commissioned a report to reflect the specific workforce needs, plans and opportunities of the Non-Government Mental Health and Addictions sector. Significant national consultation has occurred in the areas of mental health and addictions, to ensure that the aspirations of the sector are reflected in this inaugural document - Te Awhiti. Some of you were probably even directly involved in this consultation.

Te Awhiti has three clear purposes. First, it establishes the linkages between the NGO workforce and the wider mental health and addictions workforce. Second, it provides both a theoretical and a practical framework for thinking about workforce issues in an NGO context. And third, it offers a practical template to guide NGO providers in their efforts to sustain and improve workforce performance.

Some of you may have seen the stand in the foyer as you arrived, that advertises this report and other recent publications in the area of mental health and addictions.

Another example of current activity in relation to NGOs can be seen in the addition of an NGO perspective in the contract training the Ministry of Health offers to its new staff. The Contract Monitoring training programme of the Ministry now incorporates feedback from NGOs in relation to their contracting experiences with the Ministry and DHBs to ensure that staff are aware of the impact of their actions on non-government organisations. I would like to briefly acknowledge the contribution of the NGO Working Group to this development- their former Chair, Dr Gillian Greer, made herself available to meet with the Ministry's Contract Advisory Group to discuss the addition of the NGO perspective in the training programme and also gave the Ministry much of the material they needed in relation to this.

In relation to the role of NGOs in the Primary Health Care environment- this has been a matter that I have considered very carefully, based on the feedback a number of you have provided in the recent consultation round in relation to the implementation of the Primary Health Care Strategy Work Programme. I would like to thank those organisations that participated in this consultation as your views and recommendations have been very helpful.

By now many of you will have received a report in relation to this, which outlines my thinking around the best fit for NGOs in the Primary Health Care environment.

In line with the thoughts and views a number of you have shared I agree that the Ministry of Health and DHBs must ensure their strategic approach relating to primary care promotes collaboration among key stakeholders to realise the vision of the Primary Health Care Strategy.

While NGOs may be encouraged to affiliate with PHOs this will remain voluntary for NGOs, as is the case for practitioners. And this affiliation does not necessarily require a contractual relationship to be established between PHOs and NGOs.

I would also like to reassure you all that there is no national policy that funding for all community services should be distributed through PHOs.

To better coordinate the provision of services, I would encourage NGOs and PHOs to foster a closer relationship with each other, so that together you can help improve the health and well-being of our local communities.

And ultimately that is what we should be focusing our attention on: the health and well-being of our local communities.

Ends

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