A high-powered healthcare Think Tank has recommended that a politically independent working group or health commission be established to help shape long term health policy and to drive the significant change needed to avoid a healthcare funding crisis.
Leaders from the public, private and provider arms of the health sector as well as politicians, economists and academics gathered in Auckland on Friday to discuss and debate potential solutions.
It was overwhelmingly agreed that the future cost of healthcare is one of the biggest challenges facing New Zealand.
The invitation-only Think Tank was hosted by Southern Cross Healthcare Group in conjunction with Massey University.
Southern Cross Healthcare Group CEO Dr Ian McPherson said the ideas discussed would improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders long term.
“Many ideas focused on prevention and primary health, and having patients take more personal responsibility and ownership for their healthcare. But there were also more challenging ideas in the mix, such as rationing, user-pays and the need to seriously address overtreatment and other inefficiencies in the system. This will require some courageous conversations.”
The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has estimated the country has only around eight years to make a change to historic spending patterns before health costs start to seriously impact the Government’s ability to keep the country within budget.
Said Dr McPherson, “We need to address the fundamentals behind the rising demand for healthcare services. This requires a long-term plan that goes well beyond the three year political cycle. As one participant at the Think Tank said, ‘why would we wait for a crisis to take action - early change is moderate, considered and gives people time to adapt’.”
Pro Vice-Chancellor of Massey University’s College of Health, Professor Paul McDonald added that the discussion at the Think Tank needed to be taken even further beyond the health sector.
“Ideas such putting more emphasis on primary care and self-care won’t solve the whole challenge. We don’t live within a health system – we live in a social system that produces health outcomes. That means taking a whole of society approach if we are to deliver better health outcomes for New Zealanders.