12 Dec 2019

National launches health discussion document

2:52 pm on 12 December 2019

National is asking its supporters whether District Health Board elections should be scrapped in favour of an appointment process.

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National leader Simon Bridges. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The opposition party launched its health discussion document on Thursday morning, seeking public feedback on a range of policies and proposals.

Speaking to media at the launch in Wellington, National leader Simon Bridges promised he'd prioritise health if elected next year.

"If you're not wasting money... if you're very focused on growing the economy, you can deliver more," he said.

"We would be investing more in health currently than this current government does."

Bridges stressed National supported the principle of locally governed DHBs and had no plans to reduce their number.

But he questioned whether elections were the best way to choose DHB members, describing it as "a little bit of a lottery".

"Bluntly, people rock up, they vote, and they don't necessarily know who these people are," Bridges said.

"We want to make sure you've got the best skills you can possibly have on these DHBs."

Currently, each board has up to 11 members with seven elected and four appointed by the Health Minister.

National health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said there may need to be a shift in that make-up, but the party did not have a fixed view.

"What we have are billion-dollar organisations that need a very high level of governance competency and, from time to time, there are decisions that are made that probably need to be reviewed."

Mr Woodhouse said the party was also considering other ways of simplifying the DHB system.

"All health systems are complex, but for a country of our size, it's worth asking where and how we can simplify ours to deliver better care for New Zealanders and better value for money," he said.

Michael Woodhouse

National's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

For example, the responsibility for funding and planning could be delegated to a regional body, leaving the DHBs to focus on delivering health services locally.

Bridges also confirmed National's already-announced pledge to set up an independent cancer agency and committed to returning health targets scrapped by the government.

"You get right of the targets - sure as eggs - you get what we're getting right now: fewer surgeries, fewer immunisations, longer waiting times."

National also outlined a series of policies focused on health in schools, including an unspecified boost in funding for school dental care.

The party would implement an initiative like "Childsmile" which operates in Scotland and includes daily supervised tooth brushing in nurseries.

National would also roll out a "Daily Mile" programme to all schools by 2025. Fourteen schools currently take part in the programme which sees primary schools children taken outside for a 15 minute run every day.

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