Enrolling with a general practice
It’s free to enrol
It’s free to enrol with a general practice – but they may charge a consultation fee each time you go to see them after that.
General practices normally charge a higher fee, often called a casual rate, for patients that aren’t enrolled with their practice.
If you enrol with a general practice, your care will be subsidised – so you’ll pay a reduced consultation fee.
Who can enrol?
General practices can only enrol people who are eligible for publicly funded primary health services. When you enrol, you may be asked to show proof of eligibility – such as your passport or birth certificate. You’ll be asked to sign an enrolment form.
Choosing your general practice
In New Zealand, you can choose the general practice that you visit.
- For a list of practices and their fees, check the website of your local primary health organisation (PHO).
- The New Zealand Medical Council has a register of practising GPs and advice on choosing a doctor.
A general practice may ‘close its books’ if it can’t safely take on any more patients. If this happens, the practice should refer you to their PHO for help with finding another practice. The PHO may put you on a waiting list and arrange for you to get care in the meantime.
Your medical record
Your medical record is kept with the general practice you’re enrolled with, but any health professional involved in your care can look at your record. You can ask to look at your record at any time.
The Privacy Commissioner website has advice on health privacy.
What you’ll pay
General practices are private businesses and set their own fees for consultations and other health services. While the fees charged must be within a certain threshold agreed to by Health New Zealand (HNZ) and PHOs, the level of co-payment is determined by the practices.
The cost of a visit will be lower if you’re enrolled with the practice, because the Government subsidises the fee for enrolled patients.
Some general practices join a Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) programme run by their primary health organisation (PHO). This means they get extra Government funding to keep their fees at low levels for all enrolled patients. Most general practices offer zero fee visits for children aged 13 and under, and most non-VLCA practices offer cheaper visits for Community Services Card holders and their dependants.
- For a list of practices and their fees, check the website of your local PHO.
Zero fees for children aged 13 and under
All children aged 13 and under are eligible for free general practice visits, both during the day and after-hours. Not all general practices provide free visits, so check with your general practice first.
For more information visit Zero fees for under-14s
Community Services Cards
If you're visiting a general practice where you’re not enrolled, you’ll pay less if you have a Community Services Card.
Community Services Card holders also get cheaper visits at the general practice they’re enrolled with. This also applies to injury-related visits at most practices, which are covered by ACC.
If you have a long-term health condition or a terminal illness, you may be eligible for Care Plus.
General practices get extra Government funding for Care Plus patients, so the practice can provide additional care at no further cost to the patient.
General practices can charge a fee for services provided outside of a consultation, such as a repeat prescription or referral letter to a specialist.
Mothers of babies born in New Zealand are entitled to free essential care during and after their pregnancy. Go to Services and support during pregnancy to find out more
Your doctor may refer you to a hospital or specialist doctor for further assessment or diagnosis.
- Specialist care is free through the public health system, but you may go on a waiting list.
- If you want to get specialist advice quickly, you may wish to use a private hospital or specialist. You will have to pay a fee for this, unless you have private health insurance.
Call Healthline for free health advice from registered nurses, 24 hours a day. Phone 0800 611 116.
General practices are usually open business hours, Monday to Friday. Every practice is required to have arrangements for their patients to receive care outside these hours.
Check with your practice where you should go if you do need care outside working hours. (You might have to visit an after-hours accident and medical clinic or another practice.)
Changing your general practice
When you enrol with a new general practice, you’ll be asked to sign a form so your records can be transferred from your old practice.
- A practice should not refuse to enrol new patients unless they already have too many patients.
- A practice can terminate your enrolment if there is an ‘irreparable breakdown’ in the relationship.