Ministry changes approach on helplines

The Ministry of Health has had a change of heart about the process it will follow to combine health helpline services, saying it wants to work with potential providers in a more collaborative way.

Dunedin's National Poisons Centre last month warned it feared for its future under the amalgamation plan.

This week, centre director Dr Wayne Temple said he did not know what the change meant and needed more information.

''It's obviously some sort of change. But I just really don't know what it means.''

The ministry planned to combine the National Poisons Centre with other services, including addictions and general health queries, into a single helpline.

The Dunedin service advises a raft of government departments, including on national security matters, and employs 14 people. Dr Temple said last month the helpline was only one of its roles, and many functions were not written in contracts.

The ministry said in a press release this week it would not go ahead with the request for a proposal tender process that had initially been planned.

''After careful consideration we will undertake a form of competitive dialogue process that enables us to have more interaction with providers.

''Our new approach provides more flexibility when dealing with complex purchases allowing us to jointly develop the service with potential providers,'' the ministry statement said.

The ministry will issue a call for interested parties to register their interest in the middle of this month.

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