Ageing population key to planning: report

New Zealand's rapidly ageing population must be considered when new hospitals, such as the coming $1.2 billion new Dunedin Hospital, are built, a newly released report on New Zealand's health system says.

The report, commissioned by the Government, took a 312-page, overarching look at the country's entire health system.

An interim work, it will be followed up next year by a series of recommendations.

''The growth in demand for hospital and specialist services over the next 25 years as the population ages is dramatic,'' the report said.

''People aged over 65 are more likely to be admitted to a hospital, and to stay longer in hospital, than the total adult population.''

The report cited the new Dunedin hospital's indicative business case, which said the ageing population would have considerable impact on services.

''The clear message is that the average complexity of a case will increase across the hospital, and that there will be substantial pressure upon bed capacity, under existing models.''

The report said the largest growth in service demand would be in general medicine, orthopaedics, cardiology and age-related services such as assessment, treatment and rehabilitation services, ophthalmology and psychogeriatric services.

''Aged care, general medicine and orthopaedic services will need to be able to deal with greatly increased numbers of patients.''

The report, the work of a panel led by former prime ministerial chief of staff Heather Simpson and including University of Otago health academic Peter Crampton, said the focus of the health system must be on the consumer, what they valued and needed most, and it should offer more choice about how needs were met.

''We recognise that it is the complexity of the system, and the difficulty this causes for people to navigate it, that is often at the heart of individuals' and organisations' dissatisfaction with the way the system performs,'' Ms Simpson said.

''The reality is, despite the commitment and good intentions of most of those working in it, the current system is not performing equally with respect to all New Zealanders.''

Maori in particular had significantly poorer health outcomes than other New Zealanders, and as a whole the country needed to be better prepared for new health technologies and for all people to have equal access to them, the report said.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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