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Health-related Budget announcements

Statements issued by Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, Minister of Health following the release of the Budget on 26 May 2016.

Health investment increases to a record $16.1b

The Government’s investment in health will reach a record $16.1 billion in 2016/17, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman says.

“Delivering better health services remains this Government’s number one funding priority. Budget 2016 delivers on that by investing an extra $2.2 billion in health over four years for new initiatives and to meet cost pressures and population growth.

“An extra $568 million will be invested in 2016/17 – the biggest increase in seven years, and almost $170 million more than last year.

“DHBs will benefit from an extra $400 million in 2016/17 to invest in services, improve access, and to meet cost pressures and population growth.

“This investment in Budget 2016 will help New Zealanders continue to access the healthcare they need. The new Health Strategy sets the direction for a more integrated and patient-centred system. We want more services delivered in the community, with more prevention and self-management,” Dr Coleman says.

This extra funding over the next four years includes:

  • $124 million for Pharmac to provide more access to new medicines.
  • $96 million to provide more elective surgery, a key Government priority.
  • $39.3 million to start the roll-out of a bowel screening programme.
  • $42 million for vulnerable groups:

o   $18 million to expand the Healthy Homes Initiative which aims to reduce preventable diseases in young children.

o   $12 million to increase support for primary care and social services to enable people to access mental health help earlier.

o   $12 million to expand a successful programme that provides intensive alcohol and drug support for pregnant women.

$96m to further increase elective surgery rates

An extra $96 million over four years will ensure more New Zealanders get the surgery they need, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman says.

“Access to elective surgery is a priority for this Government. It makes a real difference to patients and their families.

“As New Zealanders live longer, access to elective surgery is becoming more important than ever. Doing more elective surgery each year is crucial.

“This funding boost is part of the continued effort to increase elective surgeries by an average of 4,000 a year,” Dr Coleman says.

The number of First Specialist Assessments increased from around 432,000 in 2008/09 to over 542,000 in 2014/15. As a result, the number of patients receiving elective surgery increased from around 118,000 in 2007/08 to 167,000 in 2014/15. That’s around 50,000 more surgeries over the last seven years.

“While there will always be more to do – the answer to increased demand is to do more. These year-on-year increases are a credit to our health workforce.

“The National Patient Flow project is starting to measure the outcomes of GP referrals to hospital specialists. New Zealand is one of just a few countries collecting information of this kind at a national level,” Dr Coleman says.

Between 1 July and 30 September 2015 there were around 158,000 referrals for a First Specialist Assessment – 87 per cent of these were accepted, and 5 per cent were declined because they did not meet the threshold.

The remaining 8 per cent either had their requests declined due to insufficient information, were not eligible for treatment, or were transferred to another DHB or another speciality.

As the data builds, the proportion of patients sent back to their GP for care as they did not meet the threshold is expected to rise to around 10 to 15 per cent.

Bowel screening programme roll-out

The roll-out of a national bowel screening programme is on track to begin in 2017, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman says.

Budget 2016 invests $39.3 million over four years for national bowel screening – starting with Hutt Valley and Wairarapa DHBs. This will be followed by a progressive roll-out across the country.

Additional funding has also been set aside in contingency to enable the IT support needed for a national screening programme.

“Once fully implemented, the programme is expected to screen over 700,000 people every two years. We know that bowel screening saves lives by detecting cancers at an early stage when they can more easily be treated.

“Around 3,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year. The Government is committed to better access to early detection and treatment.

“We have been working towards a national screening programme for some time. This investment builds on the successful Waitemata DHB bowel screening pilot, which has been running since 2012.

“The Government has also invested $15 million since 2013 to deliver more colonoscopies and reduce colonoscopy waiting times across the country. This has also helped to build capacity within the system,” Dr Coleman says.

A business case for the bowel screening roll-out will go to Cabinet shortly.

Once in place, DHBs will offer people aged 60 to 74 a bowel screening test every two years. More than 80 per cent of cancers found through the pilot were in those aged 60 to 74. Screening in this range will maximise the number of cancers found while minimising the cases where problems are not found.

In line with international best practice for adoption of screening programmes, a staged approach is planned. Information from the pilot and discussions with the sector have confirmed there will be a sufficient clinical workforce to deliver the additional colonoscopies required for a staged roll-out of a national programme.

$36m for warmer, healthier homes

The Government is investing $36 million to ensure more New Zealand families live in warmer, drier and healthier homes, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman and Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges say.

The investment includes:

  • $18 million of operating funding over two years to extend the Warm Up New Zealand programme to insulate rental houses occupied by low-income tenants, particularly those with high health needs.
  • $18 million over four years to expand the Healthy Homes Initiative to reduce preventable illnesses among young children (newborns to 5-year olds) who are living in cold, damp and unhealthy homes.

“These initiatives are part of the Social Investment package. We want to give vulnerable children the best start in life and reduce exposure to preventable diseases such as respiratory conditions and rheumatic fever.

“Early intervention is a key part of the new Health Strategy which aims to ensure all New Zealanders live well, stay well, and get well,” Dr Coleman says.

It provides families with insulation, curtains, heating, beds, maintenance and repairs, and advice on ventilation, mould removal and sleeping arrangements for children.

Mr Bridges says the extended Warm Up New Zealand programme will have a new focus on insulating rental houses occupied by low-income tenants, particularly with high health needs.

This is expected to see an additional 20,000 houses insulated, taking the total number since 2009 to well over 300,000.

Insulation reduces health risks such as respiratory illnesses and serious diseases like rheumatic fever, which can be caused by cold, damp housing.

“Since 2009, the Government has delivered more than 290,000 insulation retrofits through our two Warm Up New Zealand programmes. This investment continues that valuable work by targeting those most in need,” Mr Bridges says.

The Government’s investment will be matched by funding from trusts and other third parties. Warm Up New Zealand provides incentives for landlords to insulate, including 50 per cent financial assistance, to support them in meeting requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act.

These initiatives complement Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith’s Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill that requires all rental properties to be insulated by 1 July 2019.

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