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NHC Report Sets A Challenge

The National Health Committee report on Primary Health Care (released Sunday 17 December) sets a challenge for the Government to reduce health inequalities, the New Zealand Medical Association says.

"The NHC report is a thoughtful and objective look at issues surrounding Primary Health Care, and outlines a possible future model for funding," said NZMA Chairman Dr Pippa MacKay. "We hope the Government takes note of this, and other important issues raised in the report, particularly for its own Primary Health Care Strategy, due to be released early next year."

The NHC report, Improving Health for New Zealanders by Investing in Primary Health Care, recommends that the Government preferentially invest in Primary Health Care services with the intention of moving to fully funded care over the next five years.

"The NZMA supports this concept, as long as it is adequately funded and cash-strapped secondary care services are not adversely affected," Dr MacKay said. "Obviously, more detailed work needs to be done on the whole funding issue."

The NZMA also strongly supports the report's recommendation to fund and implement workforce initiatives. The NZMA has long called for urgent action to be taken to improve the health workforce, which is facing a crisis in many areas.

The report takes a comprehensive approach to Primary Health Care and covers many important points. It:

* Points out that the failure to increase government subsidies is the real cause of the difficulties faced by low income New Zealanders to accessing Primary Health Care. * Recognises the case for doctors retaining the right to set a fee and where necessary charge a co-payment. * Acknowledges that GPs will be at the core of Primary Health Care in the future, although their role may change. * Acknowledges the need for extra support for Primary Health Care in rural areas.

"The NZMA supports many of the issues raised in this report, and hopes the Government will rise to the challenge and take decisive action to improve access to Primary Health Care, which has the potential to improve health outcomes for all New Zealanders," Dr MacKay said.

ENDS


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