GP letter fast-track plan slammed

A plan to fast-track patients with GP letters through southern hospitals will exacerbate health inequalities, Labour's Dunedin North MP Dr David Clark says.

The Southern Primary Health Organisation this week confirmed it was seeking approval from senior hospital clinicians to expand an existing scheme. If the plan is approved, the public are to be told they will get faster treatment in the emergency department and more access to specialist services with a GP's letter.

''It used to be the case that you didn't have to get out your cheque book to get into hospital. Sadly, due to National's underfunding of health in the South, this reality is changing.

''The proposal to make a visit to the hospital quicker if your can afford a GP visit is contemptuous. Those already up against the system will slide further down the list.

''Health inequalities are growing and further privatisation grows the gap between those who can afford decent health for themselves and their families, and those that can't,'' Dr Clark said.

University of Otago health systems authority Prof Robin Gauld said that while he saw merit in the scheme, the problem was the relatively high cost of GP appointments in New Zealand.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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