National's health plan: Crackdown on DHB 'postcode lottery', re-establish health targets

Health targets would be re-established and District Health Boards would have a common points system to avoid the so-called "postcode lottery", if the National Party is elected in 2020. 

The Opposition's health discussion document - the National Party's eighth so far - also proposes improving school dental service access, reintroducing the Meth Action Plan, and creating a plan for dementia. 

"We believe all New Zealanders should have the opportunity to live well. When we need care, we should be able to access it no matter where we live or how much we earn," National leader Simon Bridges said. 

Some of National's proposals:

  • Crackdown on the DHB "postcode lottery"
  • Re-establish health targets
  • Make healthy bones and joints a priority
  • New national obesity strategy covering all age groups
  • Increase the number of adult cochlear implants
  • A renewed Meth Action Plan
  • Ringfence $20 million for rare disorders fund over four years
  • Improve dental services for school kids 
  • Re-establish the birthing unit at Lumsden in Southland 
  • Produce a dementia action plan
  • Pilot low-dose CT scanning to ensure lung cancers are detected early 

National wants to re-establish the National Health Targets that were scrapped by the Government in 2018 which measure District Health Board (DHB) performance. 

Performance against targets would be published if the Opposition is elected in 2020. 

The Government said the targets weren't fit for purpose and directed the Ministry of Health to develop a new set of performance measures to improve health outcomes for New Zealanders.

Health Minister David Clark has pushed back against the Opposition's claims that scrapping the old health targets has caused early deaths. 

He said earlier this year the ministry is still collecting the same information without the targets. 

National also wants to end the so-called "postcode lottery" in DHBs. 

An example of this was published in an Auckland University-led study this year which found there are "extreme inequalities" for accessing weight loss surgery across the country. 

Counties Manukau DHB had 8.8 surgeries per 1000 people living with obesity, while Waitemata had 4.9 and Taranaki had less than 0.5.

The Opposition is proposing a common points system across all DHBs and specialties to "eliminate access inequities to surgery". 

A Māori Health Strategy would also be set up for every DHB, while Māori and Pasifika who have a genetic predisposition to gout would get equitable access to uric acid lowering medication.

For all smokers who meet the criteria, National would pilot low-dose CT scanning to ensure lung cancers are detected and treated early.

National is also proposing to make healthy bones and joints a priority to support New Zealanders living with arthritis or gout, helping sufferers to remain or re-enter the workforce. 

To thwart obesity rates, National says it would replace the 2015 Childhood Obesity Plan with a new "national obesity strategy" covering all age groups. 

Newshub already revealed National plans to expand 'the Daily Mile' programme to more New Zealand schools - making it compulsory for kids to exercise 15 minutes a day - with the expectation that all take part by 2025. 

Following the Government's record mental health investment of almost $2 billion in Budget 2019, National says it would continue to prioritise it with a $10 million fund to drive innovation in digital mental health services. 

National has already proposed the idea of having mental health nurses attend mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics. It wants to commission a medical school specifically focused on training health practitioners for rural areas. 

The scrapped Meth Action Plan would also be re-introduced by National, but aimed at the 2020s. The plan, announced in 2009, set $10 million aside each year from proceeds made up of seized criminal money.  

According to a Cabinet paper shown to Stuff, the Government cancelled the programme as it is considered a "broader-based approach to crime-related harm was needed". 

For women, National wants to re-establish the birthing unit at Lumsden and support the establishment of a birthing unit in Wanaka.

The Opposition also want sot make it a requirement that Plunket nurses screen for postnatal depression and refer affected parents for support. It would also increase postnatal stay to three days in a postnatal facility of the mum's choosing.

The party revealed in July its plans to set aside $200 million for a fund dedicated to buying cancer drugs. In its discussion document, the Opposition says it would establish a ring-fenced $20 million rare disorders fund over four years.

It would also require Pharmac to be "more transparent and timely in its decision-making", by setting targets for timeliness and "requiring definite decisions based on best price offer". 

National's plan to improve the school dental services for school kids is being welcomed by the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA). 

However, NZDA president Dr Katie Ayers said she was disappointed National's discussion document did not mention a plan it proposed to improve access to dental care for low income New Zealand adults.

"Our hope is that the Government will be considerably more receptive and early indications are that they might be."