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South Island-wide health services have come a step closer, with all six southern district health boards collaborating to plan long-term sustainable health services.
It is likely neurosurgery may be the first service to become South Island-wide under the initiative, which is called the South Island Health Services Plan.
Otago and Canterbury each have neurosurgery services which have been working closely for the last year.
For most of last year Dunedin Hospital had only one neurosurgeon, Suzanne Jackson, with Canterbury providing backup.
One neurosurgeon began work in January in Otago, with another expected soon.
South Island Health services planner Jan Barber, from the South Island Shared Services Agency Ltd, said the planning process would start with an assessment of priorities from each board, identifying services that could potentially benefit from a South Island approach.
"For instance, we know that neurosurgical services could be more efficient and effective with a South Island approach, but the assessment will also identify other areas of priority for our focus."
South Island-wide planning to ensure a viable neurosurgery service was already under way.
The aim of the plan is to keep health services close to where people live, but also make sure those services are viable long-term from a clinical, workforce and financial perspective.
Otago and Southland district health boards chief executive Brian Rousseau said having South Island services did not necessarily mean they would be offered from one site.
In the case of neurosurgery, his preference would be for a single service, but from more than one place.
Otago and Southland, which have two shared services, are already working together to identify further clinical services that could be developed regionally.
Mr Rousseau said the work done in Otago and Southland would be useful to the wider group.
A steering group for the South Island planning has been established, with representatives from each board and the agency.
Otago's chief medical officer Richard Bunton represents the Otago board, with the Southland board represented by its chief operating officer, Lexie O'Shea.