25 Oct 2022

Grant Robertson on health spending, UK prime minister

11:56 am on 25 October 2022
Grant Robertson

Grant Robertson (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has defended the government's record on health spending as under-pressure hospital emergency departments grapple with long wait times.

Last week, a person died after they left Christchurch Hospital's emergency department during what Te Whatu Ora Waitaha described as "a very busy period". On returning to the ED the person was seen immediately and treated in intensive care, but died the following day.

In June, a woman died after she left Middlemore Hospital's ED when she was told it would be hours before she could be seen. She returned to the hospital in an ambulance a few hours later after a brain haemorrhage and died the following day.

Emergency care specialists said Middlemore's ED was the busiest in the country, but the problem of overcrowding was also being seen in other hospitals and in different parts of the health system.

"We do know that emergency departments have been under huge pressure over the course of this winter," Robertson told Morning Report.

"We've had illnesses of staff as well as volumes of people coming in.

"We've significantly increased the number of doctors and nurses in our system - more than 20 percent increases."

The government was funding the health system to match the rate of inflation and would continue to do that, he said.

"Health inflation tends to run a little higher than normal inflation.

"We have increased funding by 40 percent over the time that we've been in office.

"We can stand pretty proudly on our record in health."

National Party health spokesperson Shane Reti said prolonged wait times may put people off seeking the care they need, and may lead to "challenging outcomes".

"That's our concern, that they'll realise that ED's a problem so they'll sit at home with conditions that they really shouldn't - that they should be either seeing their GP or going to ED.

"We need to have some confidence that a safety net is there in some shape or form."

UK facing 'tough time economically'

Robertson said Britain's incoming prime minister Rishi Sunak values the UK's relationship with New Zealand and supports the free trade agreement.

Sunak will become Britain's third prime minister in less than two months and will have to address multiple economic and political crises as soon as he takes office.

His predecessor Liz Truss was brought down after just six weeks in office by her economic programme which roiled financial markets, pushed up living costs for voters and enraged much of her own party.

"The United Kingdom is going though a very, very tough time economically at the moment ... inflation up over 10 percent and heading higher, a massive energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine,' Robertson said.

"It's part of a very very challenging global economic picture and New Zealand is not able to insulate itself from that.

"We're going to work closely with a country like the United Kingdom but I don't think anyone should underestimate the challenges that their economy is facing.

- RNZ / Reuters

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