State of HealthNo Minister No Portfolio
A number of the Government’s most important health initiatives have reached significant milestones, with Prime Minister Helen Clark and Health Minister Annette King celebrating achievements during a week of health activities last week.
On June 27 Helen Clark and Annette King announced that the Government’s orthopaedic project, designed to provide major hip and knee replacements at the best level of international intervention rates, has delivered even more operations than planned so far. Annette King says that after 11 months (to the end of May), there have been 6277 major joint operations, well on track to meet the year's target of 6643. That target includes 1890 operations provided with $30 million in new funding under the orthopaedic project. When the project is fully implemented in 2007-08, it will be worth an extra $70 million a year, and will double the number of major joint operations carried out each year. Annette King says the project will ultimately make a huge difference to the lives of another 4650 New Zealanders each year, by improving quality of life, relieving pain and enhancing independence. Six of New Zealand's 21 DHBs have already exceeded or met their target number of extra operations this year.
On June 28 Annette King focus to mental health, launching a new 10-year plan to address New Zealand's mental health needs. That plan, Te Tähuhu - Improving Mental Health 2005-2015: The Second New Zealand Mental Health and Addiction Plan, is a strategy for delivering mental health and addiction services for the next decade. Annette King says that one in five New Zealanders reports a mental illness, including addiction, and five of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide are psychiatric disorders. It is essential to continue improving mental health services to meet New Zealanders' needs, she says. The Government committed to implementing the Mental Health Blueprint when it came into office at the end of 1999. It is spending $885m on mental health services in the next year, up more than 50 per cent since 1999. Annette King says we are seeing the results in terms of
- the percentage of New Zealanders accessing services,
- greater access to specialist services,
- increased clinical capacity,
- steady progress in moving people from institutional to community based care, and
- a rapid growth in the provision of services by NGOs and Maori mental health providers.
Challenges ahead include areas such as promotion, prevention, workforce development and primary health care services.
On June 30 Helen Clark and Annette King visited Waiwhetu Medical Centre in Lower Hutt for the rollout of lower cost primary health care and most prescribed medicines for 18-24 year olds enrolled in Primary Health Organisations. The latest phase of the Government's Primary Health Care Strategy means that about a quarter of a million more people are now eligible for cheaper care. They join over 65s and under 18s, and so far about two million New Zealanders are now benefiting from the Government’s programme. Lower cost primary health care will be rolled out to 45 to 64-year-olds enrolled in PHOs in July next year, and to the rest of New Zealanders in July 2007. This year's phase is costing $17.2 million, part of the government's $2.2 billion programme to roll out the Strategy over seven years. Annette King says: ”The World Health Organisation says New Zealand is in the first division internationally in terms of primary health care. This Government will ensure New Zealand stays there.”
The week closed with Annette King announcing regional details of a $10 million package to boost funding for hospices and cancer treatment drugs. Each DHB will receive a population-based share of $5.9 million in 2005-06 to bring all hospices up to 100 per cent funding of essential services, and a share of $4m to buy new cancer drugs and widen access to already-subsidised treatments. The initiatives are part of the $40 million first phase of the government's Cancer Control Strategy. Other initiatives include $13.2 million for the breastscreen age extension and evaluation of colorectal screening policy; $6.4 million for primary prevention activities such as Healthy Eating, Healthy Action, free fruit in schools, Health Promoting Schools and DHB innovation funding; $2.2 million for smoking cessation services; $3.2 million for research and development; and $1.1 million for workforce development. The $40 million has been confirmed for each of the next four years.
During the week Annette King also attended MidCentral DHB’s first primary health care awards evening in Palmerston North and the Health Innovation Awards Day in Wellington. “Both events provided inspiring examples of what our health sector is achieving.”