We’re working to remove barriers that have created a kind of postcode lottery, aiming to ensure that health services are available to the people who need them, no matter who they are or where they live. The reforms announced by the Government will take the pressure off our overstretched hospitals by treating people before they get so sick that they need acute care. They will also make health access and outcomes more equitable and consistent across the country.
For patients – particularly those who have been historically underserved – care will improve. For doctors, nurses, and other health workers, a more streamlined, unified system will allow them to concentrate on patient care instead of battling bureaucracy.
In this new structure, the Ministry of Health will monitor the performance of the public health system and advise the Government on policy. Meanwhile, Health New Zealand – a newly created entity – will be the sole manager of the day-to-day running of the system. It will be charged with the planning and commissioning of services, taking over the functions of the 20 district health boards across the country.
This division of labour and the unification of the DHB mandate will allow for local tailoring of primary and community care while ensuring national consistency of hospital and specialist services.
Our current health system produces some strong overall results, but it has been plagued by persistent issues of inequity and inconsistency. A key focus of the new system will be ensuring that gaps in access and outcomes among New Zealanders will be addressed.
As part of that kaupapa, a Māori Health Authority will be established to advise the Ministry of Health on policy to improve health outcomes for Māori, to commission health services for tāngata whenua, and to monitor how well Māori are served by Aotearoa’s national health network.
“The Crown has specific obligations to Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Now, we have an opportunity to truly live up to the vision of the Treaty,” says Health Minister Andrew Little. Māori partnership in determining direction, priorities, service design and delivery is essential to fixing glaring health inequities – a reality recognised by this restructure, which will allow Māori-led models of care to flourish.
In each locality, strengthened iwi-Māori partnership boards will work as influencing and decision-making voices for tāngata whenua, ensuring that the principles of te Tiriti are working at every level of the health system. Targeted support for Māori health providers will diversify available services, improving outcomes for all New Zealanders and facilitating hauora Māori.
This new system will take into account other voices of Aotearoa – including those of Pacific, disabled, and rural communities – to design and deliver services that will work for them. This collaborative approach will allow people to become partners in their own care and help all New Zealanders, regardless of their background or situation, live longer in good health.
Better use of digital technology will bring primary care closer to home and allow patients to self-manage their healthcare more easily. Meanwhile, funding and staffing of hospital and specialist services will follow need, making sure that rural and smaller urban communities have better access to care.
The strength and success of our health system depends on the capacity of our dedicated, hard-working health and care workers. This new system will ensure that these workers are valued, supported and well-trained – and that their daily mahi is underpinned by shared values, better long-term planning, and collaboration between organisations.
A new Public Health Agency, hosted by the Ministry of Health, will provide strategic and policy leadership, while a national public health service within Health NZ will be expertly equipped to respond to critical threats like COVID-19.
The shape of this new health system has been informed by a three-year review that examined how best to ensure fairer, more functional delivery of health services. The reforms will be phased in gradually over the coming three years, to make sure existing services aren’t disrupted. To get started, interim versions of Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority will collaborate with the health sector to create detailed plans around how these entities will function.
We’ve worked hard ensure our medical equipment and facilities are fit for purpose and our health and care workers feel looked after. Now, with these reforms, we’ll deliver the structural change needed to capitalise on those investments, empower our health and care workforce, and ensure better, more consistent, and equitable care for all.