GPs get a good dose of Little’s rhetoric – and a reassurance that there will be a better tomorrow

Buzz from the Beehive

Just as you we failed to find the word “democracy” in the PM’s speech to the Local Government New Zealand this week, so the word “crisis” was absent from the Health Minister’s speech to the General Practitioners conference today.

Andrew Little did acknowledge the enormous pressure that “present circumstances” are putting on GPs and their practices.

COVID-19 continues relentlessly with the predicted mid-winter surge upon us, he said, and every senior practitioner he speaks with tells him this winter flu season is the worst they’ve experienced.

“Elevated levels of absenteeism” are putting further pressure on health services, including GP practices, often on top of vacancies being carried by practices.

A disproportionate share of consultations is with elderly patients and patients with complex health needs which GPs tell Little is not accounted for in the funding they receive.

There is pressure from having to continue to manage the patients whose first appointment and planned care referrals have been delayed because of disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Little hears from GPs about the amount of administration required for many health needs which adds more hours to the working week.

And so on.

But he was clear that many of these are issues that cannot be addressed by the Ministry of Health or by Health New Zealand alone. But nor could they, or should they, be addressed by the profession alone.

There’s much  more to the speech.  You can read it HERE.

But he wrapped up by saying

The challenges we face in our system today have been a long time in the making. This government has significantly increased investment and changed the way our health system is organised in order to give ourselves a better chance of addressing those challenges for the long term.

The opportunity is here now. But government agencies do not hold all the solutions. You are at the front end of this crucial system. You see what is needed every day. We need you and all parts of the health sector engaged in determining the future shape and look of health. 

There will be limitations. It won’t be perfect. Resolving today’s most urgent needs opens the door to tackling tomorrow’s.

But working together, understanding there are different perspectives and roles, and being stronger together – we can build a better health system for GPs, health workers, and the patients and people we ultimately all serve. That is a future of health for Aoteroa New Zealand that is ours to choose.

Hurrah.  But we won’t say “crisis resolved” because there  never was one. 

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