14 Oct 2014

GP visits free for children in Northland

7:27 am on 14 October 2014

From today, GP visits - and prescriptions - in Northland will be free for all children until they turn thirteen.

The government plans to make visits to the doctor free for 6-to-12 year olds across the country, but this starts next year.

Chief executive of Northland Health Nick Chamberlain said there were good reasons to do this sooner in the north, where poverty-related ailments are common, and cost is a barrier to seeing a GP.

He said the high rates of rheumatic fever and bronchial disease could be reduced - along with permanent heart or lung damage - if children are taken to the doctor early enough.

Dr Chamberlain said it will cost Northland health organisations about $500,000 to extend free GP visits for children up to twelve, until the government subsidy kicks in next July.