Ministers Welcome Ambulance Strategy
Hon David Cunliffe
Minister of Health
Hon Maryan Street
Minister for ACC
15th September 2008 Media Statement
Ministers Welcome Ambulance Strategy
The ambulance strategy, released for consultation today, proposes a framework for initiatives that will include extending the scope of practice so ambulance officers can treat people at home.
“The goal of the strategy is a cohesive, safe, sustainable, quality, cost-effective appropriate and efficient ambulance service for New Zealand,” said Ministers David Cunliffe and Maryan Street.
It proposes changes to simplify funding and extending the role of the paramedic, both of which will give ambulance services greater flexibility.
“A significant proportion of calls to ambulance services could be safely dealt with by treating patients at home. This will be great news for many elderly people in particular as it will save them having to go to emergency departments,” said David Cunliffe.
“At the same time it will reduce the pressure on the country’s emergency departments, reducing waiting times for other patients.”
“International experience indicates that paramedics can be trained to work effectively in their communities, providing assessment and care for minor illness and injury and ongoing community based care for the chronically ill.”
“Currently paramedics in New Zealand are working towards becoming registered health professionals. Registration will facilitate access to the appropriate training to extend paramedics’ scope of practice, as has been done in Canada and the United Kingdom.”
"A key part of the newly proposed strategy is to explore options for integration of funding from ACC and the Ministry of Health. ACC uses fee for service arrangements but only when a patient is transported for treatment and no part charges are permitted. The Ministry bulk funds ambulance services and allows part charges,” Maryan Street said.
“The strategy will give a clear plan for future government investment in ambulance services. “
Recent Vote Health increases in funding (for St John, Wellington Free Ambulance and Emergency Communication Centres) has consisted of:
• A 19% increase for 2006/07 on the 2005/06 base funding
• A 25% increase over two years on the 2006/07 base funding
• A one-off 5% payment, to St John and Wellington Free Ambulance, on the 2006/07 baseline funding in 2007/08.
ACC reviews the 'fee for service' rates on an annual basis and has recently increased its contributions for both road and air ambulances, as well as communication centres.
“This funding has enabled us to stabilise improvements to ambulance officers’ clinical education and staffing. With the Health Select Committee report and consultation on the draft Ambulance Strategy we are well placed to move on from stabilization to building the ambulance sector as the first line of emergency intervention, “ said Mr Cunliffe.
The Ministry of Health and ACC began formulating a draft strategy for the ambulance sector early in 2008.
The draft New Zealand Ambulance Strategy was collectively developed by an intensive working group of officials from the MOH, ACC and sector representation from Ambulance NZ.
The draft strategy has three key goals: strategic leadership for the sector, community resilience, and seamless delivery.
The government has responded to key sector concerns by creating an integrated strategic leadership and funding organisation as a joint venture between ACC and MOH called the National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO).
NASO will undertake consultation with the sector and the public on the draft strategy shortly and will report back to the Government later this year.
Total funding for ambulance services from ACC and Ministry of Health is budgeted about $130 million for 2008/9.
There are around 210 ambulance stations in New Zealand, 560 road ambulances and around 100 other vehicles that are available for dispatch. The services are provided by 1300 paid staff (approximately 900 FTEs) and approximately 2650 volunteers
Emergency Ambulance Communications Centres (EACCs) receive in excess of one million calls a year of which about 320,000 are 111 or urgent GP calls. Ambulances are dispatched to approximately 280,000 incidents annually in response to the 111 calls plus another 140,000 times to transfer patients between medical facilities.