Health workforce numbers rise

Health Minister Dr Shane Reti says new data released today shows encouraging growth in the health workforce, with a continued increase in the numbers of doctors, nurses and midwives joining Health New Zealand.

“Frontline healthcare workers are the beating heart of the healthcare system. Increasing and retaining our health workforce is a priority for this Government and will improve health outcomes for all New Zealanders,” Dr Reti says.

“I expect Health NZ, as a national organisation, to find efficiencies and to re-invest these resources into the frontline.

“Health New Zealand’s latest workforce data for the quarter to March 2024 shows an increase across multiple categories, and we will continue our work to address the challenges we face in regard to our health workforce.

“There are now more nurses employed by hospitals than ever before, with 29,404 full time equivalent (FTE) nurses employed by Health NZ across the country. That’s an additional 1,198 compared to last quarter, and an overall increase of 2,900 over the last year.

“Health NZ has also seen significant increases in both its registered medical officers (RMOs) and senior medical officers (SMOs), with 4,950 RMO FTE now employed, an increase of 309 FTE over the last quarter, and 5,452 SMO FTE, an increase of 94 FTE over the last quarter.

“Midwifery also sees record numbers employed by Health NZ, with a total of 1,117 FTE employed across the districts, an increase of 76 FTE over the last quarter.”

Numbers of allied health workers, scientific and technical, and care and support workers have also seen increases this quarter.

Speaking to the New Zealand Association of Medical Students today as the numbers were released, Dr Reti said while there was still much work to do, the trends were very encouraging.

“Our Government is fully committed to improving the frontline health services that New Zealanders rely on. We have set ambitious targets for the health sector and increasing our workforce will play a critical role in achieving them,” Dr Reti says.

“Our recent investment of $16.68 billion through Budget 2024 has ensured the funding is in place to support the retention of these essential frontline healthcare workers. It will also contribute to training more New Zealand doctors, with $22 million for 25 more medical school places each year, from 2025.

“I acknowledge there are still gaps, but I am encouraged by the progress we’ve seen just this year.”