21 May 2015

Budget boost for palliative care

4:21 pm on 21 May 2015

New money is being poured into palliative care for the terminally ill, with $76.1 million to be spent on hospices and community care services in the next four years.

The new Health Minister, Jonathan Coleman, is signalling a bigger focus on sport and childhood obesity over the next three years.

Jonathan Coleman Photo: RNZ / Karen Brown

The Government said the funding would go towards meeting the demand for palliative care as the country's population grew and aged.

In 2013, more than 15,000 people received care and support from hospice services and 20 percent of those sufferers were under the age of 60, according to the Government.

Most of the care was for cancer-related diseases.

To address that, each year for the next four years $13 million will go towards helping hospices expand their care services for terminally ill people at home and in rest homes.

There is also money to recruit 60 new nurse specialists and other palliative care experts.

Read more stories on Budget 2015

No bowel cancer screening extension

However, there is no money in this year's budget to boost screening for bowel cancer, despite intensive lobbying to tackle the disease which kills 1200 people a year.

Instead, a pilot scheme is being restricted to Waitemata District Health Board, which will receive a further $12.4 million until the end of 2017.

The Government said it had decided not to roll out potentially life-saving colonoscopies because there was not yet the staff to do them.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman he was considering the next steps for a national bowel screening programme.

Total increase small

Overall, year-on-year, the health sector budget has increased by $311 million.

The total spend on health for the next year will be $15.9 billion. Part of that will go on elective, or non-urgent, surgery for orthopaedic treatments - an initiative announced ahead of the budget.

District Health Boards will get an extra $320 million in the next year.

That funding for hospitals will disappoint but not surprise senior doctors, who were asking for $630 million just to keep services ticking over.

Moving money around

One area getting less funding in the year ahead will be what is known as "personal healthcare and support services" - or Crown contracts for such things as mobile surgical units and phone helplines.

The annual pot of money shrinks from about $96 million to $78.

The Government argues cuts such as these are required to meet new needs, such as the cries for help from the hospice sector.