8 Jun 2012

Government working to address nursing shortage

8:16 pm on 8 June 2012

The Government says it is working out how to address a looming shortage of nurses within the next decade.

Health Minister Tony Ryall made the comments at a conference of 800 doctors in Rotorua on Friday.

Mr Ryall said there are record low vacancies for nurses now due to tough economic times.

However, he said the United States estimates it will lose one-third of its nursing workforce within a year once the economy picks up.

Australia also expects to need an extra 125,000 nurses by 2020.

Tony Ryall said officials are studying how to keep nurses over the age of 50 in the workforce in New Zealand for longer, perhaps by offering better hours.

Mr Ryall said doctor training numbers have risen markedly in several countries and the problem is not one of shortages, but poor distribution of doctors.

GPs told to focus on what matters most

The minister told general practitioners the Government is spending more on health, but times are tight and the next few years would be difficult.

Mr Ryall said doctors need to focus on what matters most and work closely with other health workers.

He said the Government would continue moving services away from back office roles to the front line - a process that had already reduced back office staff numbers by 1000 over the past three years.