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Midlands Health Integrated Family Health Centres and new Patient Access Centre Launch - speech notes

Tony RyallFriday 08 April 2011, 3:26PM

Speech from Tony Ryall

Good afternoon and welcome to the official Midlands Health Network Integrated Family Health Centres launch in Hamilton.

It's great to be here this afternoon to celebrate this development with you.

My association with your predecessor organisation Pinnacle Health goes back some 12 or so years when I spoke at the launch of Pinnacle in the Western Bay of Plenty.  

And like then, you have put yourselves at the forefront of the transformational changes happening in primary care here in New Zealand.

And today we are launching that change.  

Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues here with us, David Bennett and Tim MacIndoe, and the Director General of Health Kevin Woods.

I'd also like to acknowledge Midlands health network trust chair Craig Macfarlane, Pinnacle chair Dr Cullen,, CEO John Macaskill-Smith, and the Midlands Health Network staff who have put considerable effort and thought into this new way of caring for their patients.

This event caps off a great week in health.

Yesterday we launched the Health Workforce NZ diabetes nurse prescribing demonstration at Greenlane Hospital.   

For the first time a group of registered nurses have been authorised to independently prescribe medication to their patients. ( other than Nurse Practitioners)

People with diabetes in four North Island regions will have their medication managed by registered nurses practising in diabetes health.

We need to develop smarter and more practical ways of utilising our health workforce to deliver these services, and innovative ways like this are the way forward.

Over the past two years the public health service has employed over 500 extra doctors and well over 1000 extra nurses.  

And all data points to more doctors working in general practice.

But workforce challenges remain, especially as we face solving the problem of not enough clinicians to meet the ever increasing demand for health care.

Midland Health Network

I visited Hamilton a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to talk to clinicians and staff and to look around one of your centres.

Your publicity says you are 'putting the patient at the middle of primary care'

And I was impressed at how Midlands Health has proactively put the patients and their needs at the centre of their service.

The new model of care involves significant and major change for patients - for the better.

You have done a lot of work reorganising how patients interact with their local GP clinics and in turn how primary care is connected to the broader health system.

Even the first port of call will be a fundamentally different experience.


Earlier this afternoon I launched the sites and the Patient Access Centre.

The PAC is your new virtual front door.

This is making great use of technology - for patients.

Patients will be able to phone or email from anywhere, anytime 24/7 and talk first of all to a member of your team at the Patient Access Centre - one of the St John trained health care team.

-       … Who will actively triage all calls and requests - and if needed give immediate assistance or advice.   

-       … Or they'll arrange for the GP to give the patient a call - they can even give an exact time and then book the GP in to make that call at the promised time.     

-       … And if the patient does need to come in, their visit will have been carefully planned to ensure they see the right member of the general practice team, having had the necessary scans or tests done beforehand - no long waits, prompt service.

That's choice for the patient, right from the beginning - a flexible series of options for patients and staff to choose from.

Not only that, patients will have better access sooner, more control over their own health information and be better able to navigate the entire health system.

That is indeed a patient centred service.

At the same time, this is good for staff too.

Nurses are taking on addition responsibilities, as are pharmacists and medical receptionists.

This new model of care is part of your move to establish a network of integrated family health centres…with initially three here in Hamilton.

Congratulations on your success.

Better Sooner More Convenient

It is worth me restating the objectives of the government's drive in primary care policy - and why a more integrated primary sector is crucial to our public health service of the future.

As we all know, the demand for better and more health services grows every year, always faster and stronger than any funding increases.

And stronger than the growth of the economy.

Population ageing, new technology and medicine, and rising costs are putting huge pressure on health services around the globe.

Internationally, health budgets are being cut dramatically.

However, the National-led government is following a prudent strategy future-proofing our health service to better deal with those increasing demographic and financial pressures.

If demand for health services is to double over the next 10 years as some experts suggest, then we are not in a position to double Waikato Hospital or double the number of doctors and nurses.

That is why we need to move services to a lower cost platform that can deliver care closer to home ... and that platform is in the community…primary care.

And that means integrating services across hospital and community in ways that put the patients' needs at the centre of how care is provided: closer to home.

But that doesn't often happen now because the necessary primary care teams and infrastructure do not broadly exist.

And the historic divide between hospital and community clinicians doesn't make it easy.

That is why the Integrated Family Health Centre concept in particular is pivotal to the future delivery of patient-centred care.

It's about building capacity to deliver more complex care…in the community.

The evidence base for a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach suggests that these will greatly help patients to get the right care in the right place.

General practice in New Zealand is evolving to combine accessible general practice with the benefits of working at scale with others…either co-located or networked.

As I said earlier, this is all about preparing the public health service for the future. Building the infrastructure and professional teams we need.

That's what Midlands Health Network is doing.

it is a great privilege being Minister of Health.

And I want a second term in this job. Because the public health service in New Zealand is now making real progress for patients.

Unlike so many other countries around the world, ours is a government determined to protect and grow the public health service.

But we are borrowing $300 million a week and that can't continue if we are to avoid the sort of meltdown seen in other countries.

The next year will be much tighter for the health budget.

Though, with determination and co-operation, we can ensure that service continues to improve for patients and families here in New Zealand.

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