Building a health system Kiwis can be proud of

Every New Zealander deserves access to world-class healthcare, no matter where they live. Chris Hipkins' Labour Government has a plan to make sure this is a reality – and we’re making good progress.

Here are just a few of the ways that we’re investing in our health system:    

More doctors and nurses

This week we announced further action to grow New Zealand’s nursing workforce by adding 830 additional clinical placements for nursing students. We’re making it possible for 130 students to start their nursing studies in the second half of this year and a further 700 will be able to do so next year, increasing the number of nurses we train each year by around 10%.

We’re also growing the number of doctors trained in New Zealand to help meet the needs of our communities, including by increasing the number of funded medical students from 2024.

These steps build on other actions that we’ve taken to recruit and retain more health workers such as changes to our immigration settings – and we’re starting to see results.

Our health system now has thousands more health workers thanks to new visa pathways. A year on since the borders reopened more than 6,300 overseas health workers have joined our health workforce. This includes 2,500 nurses, and more than 2300 workers in the aged care, disabled and personal care sectors.

Reducing waitlists

We’ve made major investments to reduce waitlists and standardise access to healthcare, and this week we announced our plan to give around 3,500 more Kiwis access to cataract surgery.

For decades the old health system used a point system that had wildly differing thresholds for access to cataract surgery. That variation meant that people received different care depending on where in the country they lived.

Now thanks to health reforms, there will be a nationally consistent threshold to access surgery, opening up eligibility for thousands more surgeries. This is a first in what we can expect to see across elective surgeries from now on – a joined-up health system working towards timely and consistent access to healthcare.

More medicines for more Kiwis

Pharmac’s medicines budget is now significantly bigger under Labour than it was when we were elected in 2017. In fact, we’ve increased funding by a massive 51%. This means better access to medicines and treatments for New Zealanders, helping people lead healthier lives.

We also recently scrapped the $5 co-payment for prescription medicines, making it cheaper and easier for New Zealanders to access the medications they need. This change benefits a huge range of people including almost 770,000 people over the age of 65 who received prescription medicines in the community last year.

Improving nurses' pay

Since 2017, we’ve increased the per capita investment in our health system by almost 50%. A big part of that extra investment has been increasing the pay of the health workforce to make sure it’s fair and competitive so that our communities have the frontline workers, including nurses, that they need.

When you add together the proposed pay equity increases and collective bargaining increases since we took office, a new graduate nurse’s starting salary has gone up by 40.7% and the salary for a registered nurse at the top of their scale has risen by 49.2%.

This is a proud record for Labour to stand on, but our work is not finished. 

Making sure health infrastructure is fit for purpose

We’re upgrading hospitals and health infrastructure – delivering modern, functional facilities across the country – to make sure New Zealanders can access better care. On top of improving healthcare across New Zealand, this work is also creating jobs and boosting our economy.

A focus on mental health

We were the first Government to take mental health seriously. We’ve already made the biggest ever investment to lay the foundation for a whole new mental health and addiction system - and now, we’re boosting support for intensive mental health services and rolling our more mental wellbeing support for children.

We’re tackling waitlists and we’ve already delivered more than half a million additional mental health sessions to Kiwis needing support. And 2.7 million people now have access to mental health care through GPs.

Labour is committed to building a health system that New Zealanders can be proud of. Transformation of our health system will take time, but the steps that we’re taking are already making a difference. Now, we need to keep going.

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