H&P Times Column - Government's health targets to deliver quality and reliable healthcare

As part of its commitment to bettering the lives of all New Zealanders, the Coalition Government recently announced five new health targets to ensure our health system provides quality healthcare for Kiwis.

In recent years, our health system has struggled to keep up with demand, with the previous Labour Government unwilling to take real action to fix the problem.

National believes it has long been the right of all Kiwis to receive easy access to quality public healthcare, and we’ve shown in the past that setting proper targets for the health sector brings wait times down and ensures more people receive the care they need.

Our first health target is to see at least 90 per cent of patients receiving cancer management within 31 days of the decision to treat.

Too many Kiwis receive their cancer diagnosis and then wait months for further action to be taken, which is simply not good enough in a country like New Zealand.

Our second target is to fully immunise 95 per cent of Kiwi kids by the time they turn 2-years-old, to protect them from common afflictions with proven vaccines.

The number currently stands at 81 per cent, well behind other countries with equivalent economies and health systems, and we must make more of an effort to keep our children healthy and safe.

This goal will be supported by the $50 million package we announced previously to help Māori health providers lift immunisation rates.

Our third target involves wait times in emergency departments, where we want to see 95 per cent of patients admitted, discharged, or transferred from an ED for specialised treatment within six hours of arriving.

It is a huge failing of our health system that people have had to wait longer than that while sick or in pain, and we are committed to doing better.

The fourth target we have set involves specialist treatment, where again too many Kiwis wait too long for just their first specialist assessment.

We want to bring that wait time down to less than four months for 95 per cent of patients, to ensure you get seen sooner and can begin a specialised treatment plan more quickly.

As it stands now, only 66 per cent of patients waiting for a specialist assessment are seen within that timeframe, a dire statistic.

Our final target is to see 95 per cent of patients waiting less than four months for elective treatment.

While this type of treatment may not be urgent, it is nevertheless important to ensure people aren’t waiting six or more months to get the care they need.

We won’t pretend that these goals aren’t ambitious and challenging to achieve, or that it wasn’t difficult for the previous Government to make progress as well.

But we won’t sit idly by while things get worse, blaming factors outside of our control.

Setting effective health targets, and reporting on them publicly, helps us identify where there are problems, allowing us to take action to improve things.

National is committed to improving health outcomes for all New Zealanders and the setting of these new targets is an important step.