Budget 2012: $101m for surgery, cancer services

  • Tony Ryall
Health Budget 2012

The Budget next week will provide $101 million of extra funding over the next four years for more elective operations and scans, and improved cancer services, Health Minister Tony Ryall says.

In a pre-Budget announcement with Prime Minister John Key, Mr Ryall said the extra Budget funding would invest in four new initiatives.

“This is part of our commitment to deliver more and better frontline health services where they are most needed, while ensuring we responsibly manage the Government’s finances,” Mr Ryall says.

“This increased funding will build on the record success of the National Health Target ‘shorter waits for cancer treatment’. It will also build on the record levels in elective surgery and reduced waiting times achieved by the National-led Government,” he says.

“District Health Boards are now performing 27,000 more elective operations a year – that’s 500 extra operations a week – compared to 2008.

“In Budget 2012, we will invest a further $48.0 million to further increase those record numbers of elective operations by at least 4,000 each year.

“We also want shorter waits for important diagnostic tests, such as MRI scans, CT scans, and colonoscopies. These tests help determine if patients require an operation or other treatment.

“We will invest $16.0 million in IT systems in Budget 2012 to facilitate faster access to these important tests, and $4.0 million for a national register of patients treated for heart conditions, to improve the quality of care across hospitals. This was a key recommendation of the New Zealand Cardiac Network.

Budget 2012 is also delivering an additional $33 million over the next four years for better and faster services for cancer patients.

This includes funding for dedicated nurses who will coordinate care and support for individual patients throughout the course of their cancer treatment. “Being diagnosed with cancer is a difficult time for patients and their families,” Mr Ryall says. “This more personalised service will mean better treatment and a less stressful experience for patients.

“Research shows some cancer patients can come into contact with up to 28 doctors and even more nurses throughout their treatment. The new dedicated cancer nurses will act as a single point of contact and assist patients and their families across different parts of the health service. This expands what is already happening in parts of the country and feedback from patients has been fantastic. 

“We’re also working to further reduce waiting times throughout a patient’s treatment. We want faster access to a specialist once cancer is suspected and then faster access to treatment once there is a confirmed diagnosis.”

DHBs will start by collecting data at key points along the patient’s clinical journey, as of 1 July 2012.

“The more we know, the better we can identify issues that lead to delays and frustrations for patients. For example, instead of a patient visiting hospital on multiple occasions for different tests, departments should coordinate appointments so they are all completed in one day,” Mr Ryall says.

These new initiatives build on the success of the National Health Target ‘shorter waits for cancer treatment.’

“Under our National Health Targets, waits for radiation treatment have reduced in the last three years from up to 15 weeks to four weeks. Patients no longer have to go to Australia for treatment.”