Health system under serious stress says Minister

Thursday 25 March 2021

Yesterday, the Pharmaceutical Society’s Chief Executive Richard Townley attended Parliament, along with other invited guests from the health sector, for an update from Hon Andrew Little, Minister of Health, on health reforms being considered by Cabinet.

In his speech, the Minister provided an update on the case for change in the health system, outlining time frames for the high-level decisions being considered, following last year’s Health and Disability System Review.

The aim of that review was to develop options to reform the system to address two major challenges: equity and sustainability.

The Minister recognised the urgency to act, saying “we know that our system is under serious stress and does not deliver equally for all.”

“Next month we will announce the new shape and structure for the future health and disability system. This will be the blueprint for how the system will work in the future.”

“The future system will need to have the right settings in place to make it easier to innovate, to be able to rapidly adopt new technology that can enhance people’s experience of health services, and to help people to better manage their health at home and in their communities.”

Urgency to act

The Minister acknowledged that “the system is under stress now.”

He noted that the health workforce is feeling increasingly stressed, managing growing demand on services with limited resources.

“What’s more, from talking with many people within the sector and around the country I am overwhelmed by widespread agreement on the need for change and an expectation that we move quickly.”

The reformed health system

The Minister outlined five key shifts needed to tackle longstanding issues and reform the health system:

1. The health system will reinforce Te Tiriti principles and obligations.

2. All people will be able to access a comprehensive range of support in their local communities to help them stay well.

3. Everyone will have access to high quality emergency or specialist care when they need it.

4. Digital services will provide more people the care they need in their homes and local communities. Digital technology must finally, after years of promise, become a key feature of the system for patients and professionals.

5. Health and care workers will be valued and well-trained for the future health system.


At the conclusion of his speech, the Minister emphasised the need for partnership.

“In the coming weeks Cabinet will make decisions about the high-level structural elements of the system.”

“But we all know government alone cannot achieve the change we need. To build a better health system will require input from and partnership with organisations, groups, professions, patients and whānau.”

“The immediate need after Cabinet’s decisions will be engagement about how we get the details right.”

He concluded by telling invited guests, “I look forward to working with you to deliver change, and truly create the “one system” culture in our health services; one excellent system to meet the diverse needs of our small nation.”