Government outlines plan to reform health system

Wednesday 21 April 2021

This morning, Hon Andrew Little, Minister of Health, announced the Government’s plan to reform our “overly complex and fragmented” health system.

The announcement was attended by our Chief Executive, President and Manager of Practice and Policy, who were also invited to attend an individual briefing session with members of the transition team, along with other “Tier One” representatives, directly after the announcement.

In his speech, the Minister promised to build a “single, nationwide health service.”

The Minister acknowledged that our health system has become overly complex. “We simply do not need 20 different sets of decision-makers. Nor do we need 20 plans for capital investment, for IT systems or for our workforce. It leads to duplication, variability and inefficiency.”

The Minister announced four key changes to the health system:

1. Ministry of Health - A strengthened Ministry of Health will be responsible for advising the Government and monitoring the performance of the public health system.

2. Health New Zealand - The job of running our hospitals and commissioning primary and community health services will fall to a new Crown entity, Health New Zealand. It will replace the existing 20 district health boards, to become our first truly national public health service.

3. Māori Health Authority – A new Māori Health Authority will be created and will have the power to directly commission health services for Māori and to partner with Health NZ in other aspects of the health system.

4. Public Health Agency – A new Public Health Agency will be created. The Public Health Agency will be located inside the Ministry of Health and will lead public health strategy, policy, analysis and monitoring.

The Minister stressed that the reforms are not about cutting spending or reducing the workforce. “We need greater investment in health, not less, and more, not fewer, people working in the future health system.”

The need for quick change was identified by the Minister. However, he also said he was “mindful of the need to progress carefully and not disrupt day-to-day health services.”

The Minister expects the new system to come into effect in July 2022.

There will still be policy change and announcements to come in areas such as funding, workforce and digital health.

The Society will be looking for close involvement in primary care and community transition unit workstreams as the structure of locality units and services are developed. There is a lot of “how” to be sorted.

The Minister had a few personal words to add to his official speech (see video below).