Six action areas to strengthen health workforce


Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall says the Government is backing a sustained improvement plan for New Zealand’s health workforce.

“Protecting, promoting and improving the health of New Zealanders is only achievable with a strong and well-supported health workforce,” Ayesha Verrall said.

“Released today, New Zealand’s Health Workforce Plan was developed in partnership by Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora, drawing on engagement with the frontline clinical workforce, professional bodies, unions and government.  

“Across six action areas, a series of initiatives will make early differences and also deliver the longer-term shifts we need for sustainability,” Ayesha Verrall said.

Specific initiatives and actions outlined in the workforce plan include:  

  • Growing rural and interdisciplinary training programmes to enable larger student intakes
  • Growing ‘earn-as-you-learn’ programmes across health professions
  • Creating 135 new training places a year for allied and scientific professionals, including paramedics, oral health therapists, radiation therapists and pharmacy prescribers and anaesthetic technicians
  • Seed funding for new programmes to grow these allied professions
  • Sustained investment in Return to Nursing and support for internationally-qualified nurses (IQNs) to get ready to practice in New Zealand
  • Launch of a Return to Health project focused on flexible opportunities for those with health qualifications to return to work
  • Expanding access to cultural and hardship support for Māori and Pacific students in training to minimise student attrition and grow workforces faster
  • Establishing funding for Māori providers to take more students on placement and to offer increased training and development roles 

The six broader priority areas lie in supporting and retaining the workforce, growing pathways for Māori and Pacific communities in health, driving locally-led innovation in training and bolstering priority workforce groups.

“Significant progress has already been made to improve our health workforce over the past year,” Ayesha Verrall said.  “Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen:

  • more than 8,000 nurses registered for the first time in the 2022/23 registration year, up significantly from around 5,000 registered for the first time in 2021/22
  • approved funding in place to enable 50 additional medical student places for the 2024 intake
  • 34,000 nurses, enrolled nurses and healthcare assistants awarded significant pay uplifts, increasing pay for most nurses by more than 14%   

“We now have the roadmap to build on this to further retain, grow and recruit our health workers.

“While the modelling in this plan might be confronting to some, I think it is important that Te Whatu Ora is clear on workforce shortages to enable action. 

“Today’s plan also signals bigger shifts needed over time to make our health workforce sustainable. Those are focused on reducing reliance on the global market, growing our own rural health teams and building a workforce representative of communities across New Zealand

“Global workforce shortages and long-term under investment have put a lot of pressure on our dedicated health workers and these challenges aren’t unique to New Zealand.

“Over the next year, stabilising our domestic workforce and supporting them to manage the day-to-day pressures will be a key focus.  Our healthcare workforce spans across a variety of practices, and each of these workers is vital.

“It will take time for the actions we’re taking to be fully realised, however we are laying the foundations for much needed fundamental change in how we regulate, train, invest and recruit for the future. 

“This requires partnership and drive from other parts of our health system, and across government. It must be a key focus for all our health agencies over the next year,” Ayesha Verrall said.