|News and media|
Free after hours doctors’ visits rollout starts
|Over 90 per cent of New Zealand children aged under-six now have access to free after-hours doctors’ visits, says Health Minister Tony Ryall.
This is the rollout of another National Government election commitment, at a cost of $28 million over four years.
"This is a great step forward for young families in New Zealand, when public health budgets are facing tight times around the world,” said Mr Ryall.
“14 district health boards (DHBs) have achieved access to free after-hours GP services for over 95 per cent of their under-six population within reasonable travel time. This includes Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs who have 100 per cent coverage.
“This is an important preventative health measure as parents are more likely to take their child to the doctor for treatment before their condition becomes severe. It will also help reduce the numbers of young children presenting to our busy hospital emergency departments with an illness or injury that a GP could have treated.
“After-hours fees for under-sixes previously averaged about $17, but varied from being free to costing nearly $100 per visit at the extreme end. Extending free doctors’ visits to after-hours means parents shouldn’t be put off taking their young children to the doctor because of the cost.
“Because most general practices are private businesses, DHBs have been negotiating with their local general practice networks and after-hours clinics to implement this policy. As participation is voluntary, some practices may chose not to participate.
“The Government has told DHBs to continue discussions, particularly with rural GP networks and after-hours clinics not already signed up, over the next few months to provide more free after-hours services for under-sixes in their region within a travel time of less than 60 minutes."
The programme is estimated to cost around $7 million a year and has been funded by savings from medicines coming off patent.
Hon Tony Ryall
Minister of Health