Inflation: Warning free GP visits for under 14-year-olds, other services could be scrapped

There are warnings inflation could spell the end of free doctors visits for under 14-year-olds as well as other general practice (GP) services.

The latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) data released on Thursday morning showed New Zealand's inflation had risen to 6.9 percent - a three-decade high. 

GP Owners Association deputy chair Angus Chambers told AM due to that inflation, the types of services offered would come down to what individual practices could manage financially.

He said the pressure on family doctors had already become too much.

"Health is an area where this is a lot of costs and a very big area is nursing costs," Dr Chambers told host Ryan Bridge.

"There are a lot of staff shortages around the country; certainly doctors but also our nursing teams and reception now, and so the pressure is going on wages as well.

"Medical supplies; there are increasing costs in there so all through the business… there are cost increases."

Government funding for services wasn't rising in step with the increased costs, he said.

"If you're losing money on providing a service, you have to think carefully about whether you can continue doing it," he told AM. "The free under-14s is an opt-in service and you are allowed to opt-out of it… I guess it's a business decision and I think no one would like to do that because we all value the health of our children so much but I guess it comes down to calculations in the end."

Dr Chambers said inflation has added to the recruitment and retention crisis GPs were already facing - being driven by the brain drain as well as District Health Boards where doctors and nurses receive higher pay.

"In some of our rural areas, where there are small practices without a lot of support and lower socioeconomic areas, people will be really struggling and there's a very, very big difference between the wages of general practitioners and hospital doctors."

Brad Olsen, a principal economist at Infometrics, said inflation was only set to worsen.

"The Russian invasion of Ukraine, the higher commodity prices we're seeing globally, the very intense level of domestic inflation here in New Zealand are all going to continue to roar upwards," he told Newshub Live at 11:30am on Thursday.

Thursday's CPI report by Statistics New Zealand said the main driver of the 6.9 percent annual inflation figures "was the housing and household utilities group, influenced by rising prices for construction and rentals for housing" as well as fuel prices.

As the cost of living crisis has mounted, New Zealanders have, on average, spent an extra $4000-$5000 in the past 12 months on basics.

The Government has blamed "global factors" for rising inflation.