1 Feb 2019

Minister rejects claim that lack of health targets cause early deaths

10:28 am on 1 February 2019

Amid criticism about the state of cancer treatment in New Zealand, the Health Minister is now having to defend the government for scrapping health targets.

Minister of Health David Clark.

Health Minister David Clark is rejecting National's claims that people are dying earlier due to a lack of health targets. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

David Clark is rejecting National's claims that people are dying earlier due to a lack of health targets.

Early in its first term, the government ditched the targets, saying they weren't fit for purpose, and it is now coming up with new ones.

National MP Michael Woodhouse said clinicians had told him they were finding it harder to secure resources without the targets - and the system was languishing.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse

Michael Woodhouse Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Referring to the experience of a terminally ill cancer patient that was shared at a cancer conference in Wellington, Mr Woodhouse said having to book a private appointment just to stay alive proved why targets were needed.

"Cancellation of the previous [National] government's health targets is costing lives," he said.

"It's certainly leading to poorer health outcomes and shortened life expectancy for those who have got cancer. The minister has to explain why he thinks that's good for New Zealanders."

Dr Clark disputed that saying the government's first budget gave the biggest boost to the health sector in 10 years.

He said the Health Ministry was still collecting the same data even without the targets - and National should pause to consider its neglect of the sector.

"We are resourcing the health system better than the previous government," he said.

"So, we're committed to ensuring that cancer treatment is improved and we're committed to resourcing health better into the future."

A national cancer action plan is in the works this week and an interim plan is expected to be ready by June 2019.

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