Heather Roy

17 September 2017

I’ve had an interest in health for as long as I can remember: as a physiotherapist, then Health spokesman for the ACT party, and now as Chair of Medicines NZ. Each election health gets a mention, though often a cursory one. It was particularly pleasing to see health as the number 1 issue concerning New Zealanders in last week’s Newshub-Reid Research poll and to have had several health debates organised by media outlets in the run-up to the election.

My disappointment is that no party is willing to rock the boat on our public health system. More and more money goes into the health budget, but still EDs are overcrowded, patients are discharged early to make way for those more unwell, people struggle too often to find a GP to take them onto their books. Mental Illness has had a lot of discussion and promises calore, but until we see some structural change in health and new ideas that look to the future (rather than within our very short electoral cycle), nothing is going to change. Unfortunately none of the parties are willing to mess with the current mould, which prompted me to write a post on this blog recently – If I was Minister of Health. It prompted me to have a look at all of the political parties policies and I’ve summarised them in the table below. If health is your most important issue it might be of interest.


Party Health Policy
National Information around health policy on the website includes a ‘What we have achieved’ page. Policy announcements on cheaper GP visits, increasing the number of elective surgeries and rebuilding Dunedin Hospital. Other announcements include new funding for mental health initiatives and supporting a new medical school to train GPs with a focus on rural GPs. Factsheet is here.
Labour Increase health funding by $8 billion over 4 years. Cheaper GP visits for Community Services Cardholders. Mental health focus with nurses in all schools. Rebuild Dunedin Hospital (more quickly than National).Retain PHARMAC but gradually increase funding through DHB contributions and put in place an early access to medicines scheme (no detail available on how this will look or be achieved). Set up a national cancer clinical trials network through a new National Cancer Agency. The Agency (funding = $20m) will develop a National Cancer Plan. Rare diseases fund ($20m) to be reinstated with consumer input. Complete health policy can be found here
Green Party Focus on primary care and chronic disorders. Free primary care and prescriptions for under 18s. Ensure DHBs have more community input. Support PHARMACs independence and protect from trade agreements and pharma company influences. Prioritise ethnic groups with poor health outcomes. Help Maori to build capacity to manage their own health needs. Strong focus on mental healthcare including a mental health nurse in every school. Comprehensive policy here
New Zealand First Move towards free healthcare for targeted groups. Aged care initiatives through the new Super Gold Card. Review the number of DHBs. Other targeted initiatives in specific areas.  Review PHARMAC and its functions. Set up a separate Rare Disorders fund for pharmaceuticals. Policy statement here. No mention of costing of any of the many new initiatives the policy outlines.
Maori Party Focus on free healthcare. Increase mobile services to rural areas and increase kaupapa Maori services. Targeted screening and treatment for specific conditions. GST off fruit, vegetables and milk. Remove $5 prescription fee for low income families and fully subsidise prescriptions for over 65’s and under 18’s. Secure status of rongoā and natural health products. Policy statement here
ACT Reduce number of DHBs to 5 and have appointed members. Focus on mental health. More private sector involvement in health services. Policy statement here
TOP Focus on prevention, primary healthcare and food (banning advertising of food to children, tax on junk food, subsidizing healthy food). Replicate the PHARMAC model across the health system. Policy statement here
Mana Movement Hauora Health: focus on free healthcare. Support PHARMAC model. Policy statement here