Election 2020

Election 2020; health policies 6 min read

5/10/20 4 min read

Election 2020; health policies 6 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes


Our National Policy Analyst, Phoebe Eden-Mann, has taken a look at the health policies currently available from the main parties. Here is her take from a disability perspective.

Disabled people are often at high-risk of poor health and wellbeing outcomes. They can also be high-users of the health system. The statistical outcomes surrounding disabled people and health aren’t great. The 2018 New Zealand General Social Survey asked to rate their general health status, 50.2% of disabled people said their health was ‘fair or poor’, compared to 11.1% of non-disabled people.

So, with the election right around the corner, let’s have a look at what the health policies the parties currently in Parliament are proposing.

It’s important to note that at the time of writing (2nd of October 2020), the policies I’m about to talk about were the only ones available, and parties may release policies over the coming weeks. All policy information I am talking about has been sourced directly from the party’s websites. I have looked at the policies of the current parties in parliament. These parties are Labour, National, New Zealand First, Act, and the Greens.

The parties have been selected in no particular order

The New Zealand First Party

The New Zealand First Party is proposing:

  • To address children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing by funding the mental health programme ‘Gumboot Friday’. This would be $10 million over three years toward the cost of providing free counselling and all administration costs. The administration costs will be capped at 9% which means 91 cents of every dollar will be used specifically for counselling.
  • To fully fund St John Ambulance services.
  • To increase funding for Arthritis early intervention programmes.
  • To fund for further research and investment in managing effectively Arthritis, Crohn’s, Colitis, Diabetes, Dementia, and Depression.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party is proposing:

  • Mental health support at every primary and intermediate school, and continuing the roll out of nurses in school programme at secondary school.
  • Dental health grants increased for people on lower incomes.
  • Doubling the number of funded cochlear implants to 160 per year.
  • Investing $3 million to ensure that every DHB has access to a portable paediatric retinal camera to address one of the leading causes of preventable blindness.
  • Establish a Māori Health Authority to ensure that the health and disability system is fair, sustainable, and delivers more equitable outcomes for Māori.
  • To reduce planned care waiting lists by investing a further $200 million.

The National Party

The National party is proposing:

  • Faster cancer diagnosis with the previously delayed bowel cancer screening program rolled out to the remaining 10 DHBs in the first year in Government. An increase of $50 million of more access to medicines to treat cancer.
  • Faster elective surgery so that if you are promised treatment in the standard 4 months then you will be operated on within 4 months. They also promise more equitable access to elective surgery with standard treatment levels nationwide.
  • Increase funding for the number of adult cochlear implants to 100 per year.
  • Undertake the first national eye health survey.
  • All health legislation will be passed through an inequality filter to reduce health disparities for Māori and Pasifika
  • To establish New Zealand’s first stand-alone Minister for Mental Health to drive their strategy and better manage the mental health system.
  • To establish a $10 million mental health support package for small and medium businesses where mental health has been identified as a concern.
  • To fund life-saving mental wellbeing and suicide prevention workshops in our rural communities.
  • To commit to a nationwide ‘Zero Suicides’ comprehensive multi-sector suicide prevention strategy.
  • To require schools to deliver a skills based mental health and resilience training program from years 1 to 13.

National will fund a new baseline study of children and young people, aiming to understand the context and conditions underpinning the mental health of New Zealand’s youth and help inform the next generation of mental health services. The cost of this research will be $3m over 4 years

The ACT Party

The ACT party is proposing:

  • A separate stand-alone entity called Mental Health and Addiction New Zealand, which would give patients the right to choose between a range of providers instead of the current system of accepting what their DHB offers. The Mental Health and Addiction New Zealand would not be a provider in its own right, but a commissioning agency that assesses individual needs and contracts the best providers for the individual patient.
  • To reduce the number of DHBs from 20 to 6 (four in the North Island and two in the South Island).
  • To seek an independent review of Pharmac’s operating model for greater transparency and timeliness in decision making, a more strategic focus, and a productivity perspective based on real lives.
  • To attract more doctors and primary healthcare professionals under a new immigration policy and establish better pathways for training and accreditation.

The Green Party

The Green Party is proposing:

  • To reorienting the health service to emphasise improving health and preventing illness, in particular long term and chronic illness, rather than simply treating and addressing symptoms once illness has developed.
  • To develop comprehensive, nationally-integrated electronic health records that allow people access to their own health records and all health professionals to have access to the dame information.
  • To prioritise the delivery of healthcare to population groups with the lowest health status, which includes Māori, Pasifika, and the disability community.
  • To increase the number of interpreters (which includes NZ Sign Language) who are sufficiently skilled in translating in a health context.
  • That all DHBs are required to implement a disability ‘Plan of Action’. DHBs would work with DPOs to develop, implement, and report to the plan of action.
  • To rapidly expand on the free youth mental health Piki programme, which is only currently available in Wellington and Coast DHB, taking into account the wellbeing and accessibility needs of those with disabilities.
  • To push DHBs to ensure everyone with acute or severe mental health needs receives attention within three hours, and no one who needs treatment has to wait anywhere near three weeks.
  • To expand free counselling to everyone under 25, and working towards extending this to all adults.
  • To champion the recognition of mental health as a community and country-wide responsibility, instead of placing the burden on people experiencing issues.
  • To fund inpatient and community mental health services at all levels, as well as funding innovative initiatives that indicate high recovery rates with minimal medication.
  • To work towards improving postnatal mental health services.
  • To working through the cross-parliamentary group, to further destigmatise mental ill health, and build consensus on policy solutions.
  • To establish a Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Labour and the Greens have indicated that they will also draw upon the recommendations of the Health and Disability System Review, which you can read my blog about here

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