H2 takes on health: Government announces huge review of health system

Heather Simpson.
Heather Simpson. Photo credit: File

The Government has announced a huge review of New Zealand's health system.

They are bringing out the big guns - Heather Simpson, former prime minister Helen Clark's second-in-command, also known as H2 - will chair the review.

Ms Simpson works in the Prime Minister's office on a part-time basis.

The review will look at almost everything relating to the health system.

It will look at the country's 20 District Health Boards (DHBs), which encompass most of the day-to-day health system. DHBs are in charge of health services in their district - that is, primary care like doctor clinics, hospitals, aged care, public health and NGO providers.

Mental health and addictions, primary care and relationships between the Ministry of Health and the broader sector are all areas that need particular strengthening, the Government says.

The review will look at the "way we structure, resource and deliver health services," and will focus on primary and community-based care. It's also been tasked with looking at Maori and Pacific health outcomes and the demands of an aging population.

That could mean an overhaul of the DHB system. The location-based nature of the DHB system can mean services vary depending on which part of the country you live in.

ACT Party leader David Seymour says there's "no way" a review run by an advisor to the Prime Minister could be objective and impartial.

"It is a completely political exercise and will simply deliver whatever the Government wants it to," Mr Seymour said.

The Prime Minister's office says the appointment was run past ministerial services who did not identify a conflict of interest.

The health system has been a major focus for this Government. It campaigned on substantially increasing funding for health and gave health a $2.2 billion increase over four years in the Budget.

What the review will look at:

  • How accessibility can be improved
  • How the system balances services with population density
  • Future-proofing the system - how the system will cope with climate change, technological advancement and antibiotic resistance
  • Whether the system could be fairer, more equitable and effective
  • How global healthcare is evolving
  • How funding could be altered to improve flexibility and reduce inequities
  • Infrastructure needs
  • Increasing the priority of primary care and prevention

What the review won't look at:

  • The ACC scheme 
  • Private health insurance
  • Disability system

The review panel will issue an interim report to the Minister of Health by July 2019, with a final report no later than 31 January 2020.


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