More than 400,000 school children will be entitled to free GP
visits through one of the biggest surprises in Budget 2014.
Free doctor's visits for children will be extended from six
up to the age of 13 under a $90 million allocation announced
in the Budget.
An extra $1.8 billion has been allocated for the health
sector for the next four years, taking heath spending to a
record $15.6 billion over the next year.
Health Minister Tony Ryall said the $1.8 billion bonus has
been allocated to meet cost pressures and population growth.
"This is made up of $1.39 billion of new money and $412
million of savings.''
Other major announcements from the Budget include a $200
million investment from the Future Investment Fund for health
sector projects, including the new Grey Base Hospital on the
Expanding the Government's free GP visit and prescription
scheme to include six to 12 year-olds will benefit more than
400,000 children, Mr Ryall said.
Under the scheme, all primary school aged children can go to
a doctor for free, any time of the day, as well as being
entitled to free prescriptions, he said.
Parents shouldn't be put off getting medical assistance for
their young children because of the cost, Mr Ryall said.
"This is an important preventative health measure, as parents
will be more likely to take their child to the doctor for
treatment before their condition becomes severe. It will also
help reduce the number of children presenting at our busy
hospital emergency departments with an illness that a GP
could have treated.''
The scheme would be offered to general practices from July 1,
Of the 1029 general practices nationwide, 1004 practices had
opted into the free under-sixes scheme and subsequently 98
per cent of children under six can go to the doctor for free.
The Government had also allocated an additional $23.7 million
over four years to support general practices, Mr Ryall said.
"This includes $8.9 million of extra funding for rural
general practices and a further $13.3 million to provide a
third of New Zealanders with low-cost doctors' visits.''
Other new health funding boosts include an extra $112.1
million for disability health services, $110 million for
elective surgery, $96 million for increased home-based
support services and $33 million for better cancer services.
District health boards would also benefit from a funding
increase, gaining around $320 million for extra services, Mr
While many developed countries were freezing or reducing
their health funding, New Zealand's Government was growing
public health services, he said.
"Despite tight financial times, this Government has invested
an additional $3.34 billion of new operating and capital
funding into health in the past five years.''
The industry body representing health insurers says today's
Budget is just "tinkering'' without resolving the
unsustainability in the current health funding model.
Plunket has welcomed family-focused initiatives including
parental tax credits, free GP visits for school children and
increased paid parental leave.
But CEO Jenny Prince said Plunket would still like to see
parental leave increased to 26 weeks in the medium-term.
"The real health gains in breastfeeding, attachment and
bonding, community connectedness, family stability and
economic security are evidenced where there is a longer
period of time with a new baby,'' she said.
Ms Prince said the Budget doesn't have a solution to health
disparities suffered by those in poverty, but the $1.8b in
extra health spending will help to reduce diseases of
Health Funds Association chief
executive Roger Styles said New Zealand could not afford to
dither much longer.
"Most countries now acknowledge the funding model of the last
20 years will not work for the next 20 years and are taking
urgent action. Here we continue with a 'business-as-usual'
effort to portray the present system as sustainable, when it
is anything but,'' he said.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says today's
"budget of crumbs'' and failed to deliver the funding
increase needed to maintain service levels in DHBs.
Researcher and policy analyst Jill Clendon said there was
nothing to address pay equity issues in the aged care sector.
"There is very little for Maori health services, or for
dealing with stagnant wages, growing food and interest rate
Dr Clendon said the $820m set aside for national health
services and clinical training was a "glimmer of hope", but
it was not specified what level of funding would be allocated
Rheumatic fever should be addressed through healthy housing
initiatives and increased housing stock to relieve
overcrowding, rather than extra money for screening, which
does little to prevent the disease.
Dr Clendon said the extension of free GP visits to under 13s
was strongly supported, but NZNO hoped the funding would be
sufficient for general practices to take up the programme.
"We agree with the Council of Trade Unions that increases to
paid parental leave are welcome, and a victory for working
women everywhere. It's a step in the right direction but we
will continue to advocate for 26 weeks of paid parental
- by Brendan Manning of APNZ
Health budget allocations to take effect over the next four
* $90 million to make GP visits and prescriptions free for
children aged under 13
* An extra $112.1 million for disability support
* An additional $110 million for elective surgery
* $96 million for home-based support services
* $40 million for a new Healthy Families NZ campaign,
encouraging New Zealanders to eat healthier and exercise
* $40 million in additional support for elderly people
including people with dementia
* $32.7 million for faster cancer treatment, including $8
million to increase the number of colonoscopies
* A further $20 million for the rheumatic fever prevention
* $17.8 million for post-graduate education and training of
* $6.3 million to provide bilateral cochlear implants for
children under 18
* $4 million to increase the number of renal transplants