30 Apr 2018

GP fee cut: Govt needs to 'prioritise promises' - Minister

10:28 am on 30 April 2018

The government may not be able to deliver on a pledge to reduce GPs fees on 1 July because it needs to prioritise its promises, says the Health Minister.

Minister of Health David Clark.

Minister of Health David Clark. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement in the early stages of last year's election campaign, saying Labour would knock $10 off the price of a GPs visit for everyone from 1 July.

But Health Minister David Clark signalled yesterday that it would not be happening within that timeframe.

Mr Clark told Morning Report today the coalition government needed to prioritise the things that had been promised.

"The government is made up of three parties which campaigned separately. We've then costed the promises, put them into the agreement and are now working to deliver those promises."

He said the issue of high GP fees putting people off from going to the doctor was a problem the government was determined to address.

Mr Clark would not give a timeframe for when the cost of GP visits would be cut.

"We will work to make GPs more affordable over the term of the government."

National Party health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said he was not impressed that the government could not meet its promise.

"Well I'm very disappointed for the people of New Zealand who were promised, every single one of them, a ten dollar reduction in their GP visits, but I'm not surprised.

"This is a continuation in a series of broken promises by a government that really over-promised on the campaign trail and now realises it can't deliver."

Despite the disappointment from National, GPs were happy to wait a bit longer for the fees reductions to come in.

The reason for that, the Primary Care sector argued, was that the way the policy was set up was going to advantage some practices, when others would suffer, potentially leading to job losses in some, while others are overwhelmed.

The President of the Royal College of GPs, Tim Malloy, said the sector agreed the most important thing was that the cost reductions be done fairly, ensuring discounts particularly for the most vulnerable patients.

"But in order to do that it's likely we're going to need a very comprehensive funding review of the whole of primary care and particularly in order to avoid any unintended consequences to our workforce and our practices."

Dr Malloy said there were probably at least half a dozen different funding mechanisms in primary care which needed to be rationalised into one system addressing the needs of the most vulnerable.

He said if the government got its promised review of primary care funding underway quickly that would help.

"If there is willingness to begin this process immediately, we believe that we could have this in place by July next year."