New Zealand’s healthcare system is facing critical issues of equity, accessibility and financial sustainability.

Health funding often focuses on short-term cost containment rather than long-term investment in service innovations that can improve consumer
participation and independence. A new approach is needed. The ACC model, which effectively incentivises prevention, early diagnosis, and rehabilitation, provides valuable insights. Lengthening the financial horizon for health service funding and encouraging working with other social sector organisations could improve health outcomes.

The government’s healthcare reforms in response to the Simpson Report fails to diagnose the problems of inadequate information and flawed incentives within the healthcare system. Focusing on centralisation is the wrong solution for the wrong problem. There is no clear evidence that structural reforms alone lead to better healthcare. Focusing on structure rather than developing
models of care based on customer needs is putting the cart before the horse. 

Concerns exist about the timing, cost and accountability of the current reforms, as well as potential competition between the new central health agencies. Centralisation seems to be the primary ideology driving the restructuring, but it might not be able to address the challenges facing the healthcare system.

The incoming government should prioritise funding incentives, accountability mechanisms, and integrating health and social services to better address accessibility, unmet needs, and disparities in health outcomes. The New Zealand Initiative is researching how this might be achieved.

In the shorter term, the incoming government should address a series of more immediate healthcare challenges for which the Initiative has
policy recommendations. These include: 

  • The shortage of healthcare professionals,
    most critically general practitioners.
  • The need for an independent pandemic
    response agency.
  • Changes to the scope of the Covid-19
    Royal Commission’s terms of reference
    and the composition of the Commission
    itself to attain the full benefit of the
  • Changes to Pharmac’s modus operandi.
  • Changes to Medsafe’s approval processes.

To read more about our Health recommendations for the incoming government, read our Prescription for Prosperity report here.

Health Innovators’ Summit: Inspiring Action for Better Care

In August 2023, we ran a members' event called Health Innovators’ Summit, a half-day event bringing together politicians, members of The New Zealand Initiative, professional health associations, and senior journalists to learn about innovative solutions for better healthcare in New Zealand.

With keynote speakers sharing their experiences and insights, attendees will be inspired to take action and improve the current healthcare system. 

Watch the 6 keynote sessions here.

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