Only 5pct turned down for elective surgery - Health Minister


The Health Minister says just 5 percent of patients are being turned down for specialist care because they don't meet the threshold.

Labour claims last year nearly 45,000 Kiwis seeking elective surgery were sent back to their GPs without getting to the specialists they were referred to.

But Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says they're making it up because they don't have the figures.

New data is expected to be released this afternoon showing 87 percent of referrals were accepted.

Between October 1 and December 31, 2015, there were 161,881 referrals for a First Specialist Assessment. Eighty-seven percent (141,132) of referrals were accepted, and 7762 (five percent) were declined as they did not meet the threshold.

Eight percent (12,987) had their requests held or declined for other reasons, such as further investigations being required, or because there was insufficient information from the GP, the service was no longer needed or they were transferred to another DHB.

Labour's health spokesperson Annette King says thousands of New Zealanders are being ignored when it comes to essential elective surgery.

"This means that people who should be productive members of their community are on the scrapheap," she says.

"They are being denied care because our hospitals are not being funded to meet demand."

But Dr Coleman says under Labour 65,000 patients were being referred back to their GPs, and he says since 2008 there's been a 42 percent increase in elective surgeries.

"We've got to keep on doing more, we've got to do more appointments, we've got to do more operations, and that's where the focus has to be," says Dr Coleman.

"No government has been able to provide absolutely everything that every patient would want but we've got to focus on what the need is and meeting those needs."