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Budget 2023: Support And Building Questionable When It Comes To Primary Care

General Practice New Zealand is disappointed that today’s budget offers none of the urgent support needed to address New Zealand’s desperate and growing situation where people are increasingly unable to access the care they need when they need it.

Chair, and Porirua-based GP, Dr Bryan Betty said: “It’s great to see many prescriptions becoming free, but that is little help if access to your GP for your prescription isn’t first addressed.

“While we have seen some of the largest investment ever into the health system over the past years, we’re yet to feel any boost to the essential care our communities need every day from general practice and other primary care providers. We were told to expect no frills, but since when is decent access to a primary care system anything more than covering the basics?”

New Zealand is in constrained financial environment. It is critical that precious health resources are targeted where they can have the greatest impact for the greatest number of people. That means supporting affordable access to care, healthier lifestyles and reduced need for hospital services. Yet that isn’t evident in today’s announcements.

Dr Betty said looking back he could see General Practice New Zealand commenting on the ‘long awaited review of the funding model’ against the 2021 Wellbeing Budget announcement.

“Two years later, and we are still pushing hard for a comprehensive primary care funding model that addresses the significant and persistent issues of equity, workforce, rurality, deprivation and complexity.”

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Stabilising general practice is the essential first step, it is the rock that everything else can be built on to realise the objectives of the Pae Ora reforms. Sapere’s 2022 review of capitation found general practice was underfunded, estimating a 9 per cent funding increase was required just to stand still.

“Outside of the budget process we’re in the early stages of negotiation with Te Whatu Ora on the annual uplift. General Practice New Zealand has made it clear that 5 per cent is not anywhere near enough to address the cost pressures on general practice.

“We are focused on solutions and working with the funder to deliver a package of commitments which will add value to primary care providers.”

With a two-year budget set in 2022, it is natural today didn’t deliver a lot of ‘new’ news. But many of the Budget 2022 appropriations had no impact in our 2022/23 financial year.

The Pae Ora reforms set out to deliver equitable health outcomes among New Zealand’s population groups, yet additional funding to address disparities has barely registered in general practice.

“The equity adjustment funding allocated in Budget 2022 currently targets just 170 providers which is blatantly inadequate and comes nowhere near delivering on the inequity findings of Wai 2575.

“We also need immediate action on the money committed to building comprehensive primary and community care teams. It took until late April 2023 to get more information on something that could be a real game changer.”

Dr Betty adds from the discussions he’s been having around the country it is clear, general practice is absolutely up for the challenge of evolving and adapting.

“We’re ready and willing to welcome these new roles to the wider care team. The challenge is doing that when the core of the system is so fragile,” said Dr Betty.

“General practice has the potential to do more if it is funded fairly, including being able to recruit and develop the workforce, address health inequities and provide care and support for people with complex and long-term conditions.”

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