Attributable to Margie Apa, Chief Executive Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora

Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora (Health NZ) notes progress being made while also acknowledging challenges that remain as the latest Quarterly Performance Report is published.

The report, which also includes the 12 Clinical Performance Metrics, is for the period 1 October to 31 December 2023.

We are seeing headway in some areas, such as where we have a focus on reducing the number of people waiting a very long time for planned procedures (more than 365 days) and can see this number coming down.

Other highlights include:

  • The launch of Ora Telecare, a rural clinical telehealth service providing rural communities with after-hours primary care (GP consults and nurse triage). Within four weeks of launch 35% of all eligible rural practices had enrolled in the service.
  • Faster diagnostics for lung cancer patients got a step closer over this quarter. Patients with a high suspicion of lung cancer will, in time, be referred directly for a CT scan first without the need for a referral to a respiratory specialist. This will remove unnecessary steps and ensure faster treatment for people with lung cancer.
  • The Aotearoa Immunisation Register (AIR) was launched in December providing information about immunisation coverage across the population including the type and number of vaccinations received.
  • In terms of current initiatives in the hospital setting, a theatre dashboard which provides national visibility is giving us better information to make informed improvements to theatre use. We are improving communication with people who have been waiting more than four months for planned surgery or to see a specialist. This will give patients more certainty about what they can expect.
  • We are creating standardised care pathways across the motu. For example, we are expanding the musculoskeletal pathway prototyped in 2023. This pathway relies on physiotherapists and orthopaedic teams working together to ensure the patient receives the right care at the right time, potentially reducing the need for surgery.
  • Improving access to diagnostics is also part of our plan. We have expanded access to publicly funded PET-CT scans to speed up wait times for people who need urgent cancer treatment. This will see about 1,000 more PET-CT scans a year and has standardised access to these scans across the country.

Overall performance is stable and while there is improvement in some performance metrics, we are  yet to see the level of improvement we need in our hospital settings, specifically the time it takes to get a first specialist assessment and treatment times for those on the waitlist.  This sets us up well for the beginning of National Health Targets from 1 July 2024.

We are getting a much clearer view of the areas that require further focus because we can see, at a system-wide level, where short and longer-term improvements can be made. This is made possible now that we are one organisation.

The goal is that no patient waits longer than four months for treatment or their first appointment with a specialist, and patients who have been waiting longer than one year, are treated promptly. To achieve this, we have an increased focus on weekly regional progress reporting and national oversight to ensure plans are in place to address issues at a specialty, local or regional level, and determine where national support is required.

We have been able to do this due to the systems we have put in place over the past two years. We still have a long way to go however, and increasing our workforce will enable us to see more gains over the next few years.

We are also working closely with the Minister of Health to agree deliverables, milestones and planning to make sure we’re taking all the necessary steps before the new health targets come into force in July.