Not enough GPs: Our Health Minister is on the case but we will have to wait to hear what he intends prescribing

The latest Beehive news of most interest to business people is the detail of Trade Minister Damien O’Connor’s trip to London, Paris and Brussels to try to hasten progress on free trade negotiations.

But the matter of concern to everybody – at least, it’s a matter that is likely to affect everybody at some point in their lives – can be found in a speech delivered by Health Minister Andrew Little.

Addressing the Medical Association General Practitioners’ Conference, Little focused on GP shortages, rising levels of medical workforce burnout, a funding model that has not been reviewed for some time, and more and more people coming through the doctors’ doors with increasingly complicated health conditions.

Little recalled recently outlining his vision of a national health service for New Zealand

 …  that focuses on treating people before they get so sick they have to be sent to hospital, that strips away unnecessary bureaucracy and duplication… 

It would be …

A service in which people get the treatment they need, no matter where they live.

And a service in which doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers can concentrate on doing what they do best – healing people.

Governments had allowed the health system to drift into focusing on specialist care – 75% of the Government’s health spending goes to hospitals, Little pointed out.

He aims to shift the balance and noted that in Budget 2021, the government has added $46.7 million a year to primary healthcare funding, so that as the population grows, GPs can continue to provide affordable healthcare to the people who need it most.

Little expects a growing share of funding to go to primary and community care.

One goal of the government’s health reforms is for primary and community care to bring services closer to home, and to give people more influence over the day-to-day care they get in the community from  pharmacies, physios, GPs and so on.

But – and here the outlook looks ominous – we have an ageing GP workforce

 … and there simply aren’t enough doctors to go around.

Systemic funding and other issues require a long-term overhaul for the benefit of patients and the workforce.

If Little has specific remedies to administer, however, he didn’t mention them.

In another press statement, he announced the appointments of 28 advisers to help him as Lead Coordination Minister for the Government Response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques.

I’m pleased with the broad range of skills and experience members will bring to the group, encompassing leadership, collaboration and advocacy.

The membership includes affected whānau, survivors and witnesses, representative communities, civil society, local government and the private sector.

Does he have enough advisers in this group?

Apparently not.

“We want to ensure we have representation from all our diverse communities, and will be talking to Pacific, rainbow, disability and rural communities for potential candidates to join the group,” Andrew Little said.

We trust he is no less anxious to seek and take the best advice on the matter of critical GP shortages which – by his account – can only worsen if nothing is done.

But more important than seeking advice, we trust he gets on with the job of taking the necessary decisions to restore GP services to good health.

Latest from the Beehive


EU and UK FTAs top of list for first ministerial trip since COVID-19

 Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor announced details of his planned visit to the United Kingdom and European Union next week, where he will hold trade and agriculture discussions to further New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

He said the visit – the first international travel by a New Zealand Minister since February 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit – will add political weight to ongoing negotiations with both the EU and the UK on free trade agreements with New Zealand.

O’Connor will drop in on Singapore en route to Europe.

He will be accompanied by MFAT Deputy Secretary and Chief Negotiator for the EU-NZ FTA Vangelis Vitalis.

New Zealand’s Dublin-based Chief Negotiator for the UK-NZ FTA, Brad Burgess will join the Minister for the London leg. Burgess is serving as New Zealand’s Ambassador to Ireland.

The details can be found in the press statement.


 Arihia Bennett to chair Royal Commission Ministerial Advisory Group

 Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu chief executive Arihia Bennett MNZM has been appointed chair of the newly appointed Ministerial Advisory Group on the Government’s Response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques.

Twenty-eight people from diverse backgrounds across the country have been selected.

The group is being established in response to recommendation 44 of the Royal Commission of Inquiry report: Establish an Implementation Oversight Advisory Group.

The Ministerial Advisory Group will play a key role in providing independent advice to the Government on the way it implements the commission’s recommendations.

The matter of pay for the advisers and the estimated cost was not mentioned.


Speech to the New Zealand Medical Association General Practitioners’ Conference, Rotorua

You can click on to the headline of the speech to read the full text.  Point of Order has dug out some nuggets for highlighting earlier in this post.

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