Find Health and Medical expertise in New Zealand

Health care and disability services in New Zealand are delivered by a complex network of organisations and people. Most of the day-to-day business of the system is administered by 20 district health boards (DHBs), which plan, manage, provide and purchase primary health services for the people in their district, including hospital care, speciality care and community nursing. The Ministry of Health acts as a policy adviser to the government, as well as being an agent for monitoring and regulating the DHBs. Public hospitals are owned and funded by the DHBs. In addition to DHBs, health care is provided by a range of private and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Health and disability NGOs are funded by the Ministry of Health or a DHB, and provide a wide range of services. There are also more than 200 Maori health and disability providers that are Maori-owned and governed.

There is a large pharmaceutical industry in New Zealand that contributes a major portion to total manufacturing exports.

Pharmaceutical companies based wholly in New Zealand and conglomerates with international ties make up nearly 1% of the world’s pharmaceutical industry. More than 34,000 people in more than 300 companies engage in manufacturing, research and development, and wholesaling. PHARMAC is the pharmaceutical management agency in New Zealand, funded by DHBs to obtain various medicines.

Unmet primary care need

Primary health care in New Zealand is not generally free, with charges making health care less accessible to the economically disadvantaged. Government research found that one in four adults and one in four children reported unmet need for primary health care in the past year in 2013. Unmet need for primary health care was found to be more common among Maori and Pacific adults and children, and in those living in the most deprived areas. However, there was found to be low rates of unmet need, due to cost, among children aged less than six years.

Fees for primary health care vary, as doctors’ practices and medical centres are privately owned and so set their own fees. Charges for children under 6 are usually lower than those of adults. Some general practices are members of a ‘low cost access’ programme run by their primary health organisation, which means they get extra government funding to keep their fees at low levels.

GPs can also charge a fee for services provided outside of a consultation, such as a repeat prescription or referral letter to a specialist. However, mothers of babies born in New Zealand are entitled to free essential care during and after their pregnancy. Specialist care is free through the public health system.

Improving indigenous disparities in the distribution of health and its determinants is a priority of the New Zealand government, with 15.4% of the population currently identified as indigenous (2012). Primary care costs appear to be a particular problem, as Maori are less likely to seek medical care when a payment is levied. Other issues include cultural barriers and lack of facilities in some areas.

New Zealand’s Maori Health Strategy, He Korowai Oranga, sets the overarching framework that guides the government and the health and disability sector to achieve the best health outcomes for Māori.

Life expectancy

New Zealand currently has a life expectancy of 81 years, showing a sustained increase in life expectancy from 79 years in 2000 and 75 years in 1990. Gains have been primarily due to reduced child and maternal mortality, and improved longevity for other age groups, particularly for older people with chronic diseases.

Life expectancy at birth in the Maori population is approximately eigh years less than for non-Maori of both genders (2012). All district health boards (DHBs) are required to work towards improving the health of Maori and reducing health disparities between Maori and non-Maori. As part of New Zealand’s commitment to improving the health of indigenous people, each DHB is required to have a Maori Health Plan (MHP) that highlights the DHB’s efforts to this effect.

In 2013 an estimated 5.4% of the estimated resident population had diabetes and 30% of adults were obese. Obesity is one of the most important modifiable risk factors for these diseases.

Each year the Ministry of Health for New Zealand publishes health targets to provide a focus for action. The targets are designed to improve the performance of specific health services. The ministry has set a target to carry out more heart and diabetes checks nationwide, aiming for 90% of the eligible population to have had their cardiovascular risk assessed within the last five years, as well as being tested for diabetes.

Other targets include 85% of patients receiving their first cancer treatment, or other support, within 62 days of being referred and for 5% of infants aged 8 months to have completed their primary course of immunisations on time. There are also targets on providing support and advice to help smokers quit – an estimated 5,000 people a year die from smoking-related illness in the country.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in New Zealand accounted for an estimated 88% of all mortality in 2012. The most prevalent NCDs in New Zealand are cardiovascular diseases, which accounted for 32% of total deaths across all age groups in 2012; cancer, which caused 29% of deaths; and respiratory diseases, which accounted for 7% of deaths. Communicable diseases accounted for an estimated 5% of all mortality in 2012, with respiratory infections and infectious or parasitic diseases accounting for 3% of all deaths. New Zealand is considered a non-endemic country for malaria by the World Health Organization. Estimated incidence of tuberculosis (TB) has been falling since 2002 and estimated mortality (when mortality data excludes cases comorbid with HIV) has been falling year on year since it peaked in 2010.

Government expenditure

Less than a fifth of health care in New Zealand (17%) was paid for by patients or funded by other non-governmental entities – such as private insurers, charities or employers – in 2012. Total health expenditure constitutes 10.3% of GDP (2012), of which 83% is covered by the government. Government spending on health care was 8% of GDP in 2013.

In the most recent survey, conducted in 2010, there were 274 medical doctors, and 1,087 nurses and midwives per 100,000 people. Additionally, 93% of one-year-olds were immunised with a dose of measles in 2013. In 2014 everyone had access to improved water sources and the most recent survey, conducted in the period 2000–11, reports that New Zealand has 101 pharmaceutical personnel per 100,000 people.

New Zealand has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which includes ‘the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’. The covenant commits signees to providing healthy and hygienic environmental conditions, controlling epidemic diseases, improving child health and facilitating access to health services without discrimination.

Health and Medical organisations in New Zealand
New Zealand Medical Association