Health Minister and National MP visit College

College news
6 November 2018

Health Minister David Clark at NAC meeting

The College’s National Advisory Council meeting on 1 November was particularly notable because both the Minister of Health David Clark and Opposition Associate Health Spokesperson Dr Shane Reti came to speak and answer GPs’ questions – at separate times. The Ministry of Health’s Clinical Chief Advisor for Primary Care Dr Juliet Rumball-Smith also attended.

The Minister outlined his priorities: the review of the health and disability sector, a greater focus on mental health, public delivery of health services, primary care, and child wellbeing, with everything underpinned by equity. NAC discussed the impact of the December roll out of cheaper GP visits for Community Services Card holders at VLCA practices, and zero fees for 13 year-olds. The Minister said that the review was broadened from primary care to the whole sector because you can’t look at one part in isolation with respect to funding.

Bill Grove from Southland Faculty asked how the College can best put GPs’ views to the review. The Minister suggested inviting Heather Simpson, who is heading the review, to speak to the NAC’s next meeting in March.

NAC Chairman Chris Reid asked the Minister about his promise to fund 300 GPEP training places. The Minister noted that for this year’s intake of 190 GPEPs, everyone who applied and was eligible got a funded place. He acknowledged that there’s still some way to go, and one of the challenges is to ensure rural areas are attractive to GPs in terms of housing, schooling and work for partners.


David Clark with Dr Chris Reid (L), Dr Shane Reti (R)


NAC managed to cover several topics in their 45 minutes with the Minister. Liza Lack, National Clinical Lead for GPEP raised why the medical schools’ competitive processes select out the qualities needed in a GP, like compassion, teamwork and self-care. Sue Tutty of the Auckland Faculty raised the issue of persuading DHBs to fund Mirena. Katrina Kirikino of Te Akoranga a Māui raised equity concerns for Maori from the national bowel screening programme and HPV vaccine delays.

The Minister said that departments must report back to him specifically on their plans to improve equity, so if there are good suggestions, the College should put them through to the DHBs and Ministry, as they will be searching for answers and will welcome ideas.

NAC agreed to write to the Minister to reiterate the topics covered, and highlight any other critical topics that the members raised but did not have time to cover.

Later in the day NAC welcomed Dr Shane Reti, who is a College Fellow. Dr Reti said that the National Party is in listening mode for 9-12 months while it forms policy, and he invited views and questions. He said that he thought the funding agenda is being pushed out by the government, and that there will be no further changes this term. Dr Reti noted that while practice nurses will receive a pay equity adjustment, there will be no top up for GPs to meet that.

Jess Blackwood of Te Akoranga a Māui raised the issue of insufficient support for young mothers.

There was also a wide-ranging discussion on health IT, where Shane expressed doubts about New Zealand’s maturity to build the central leadership and infrastructure needed to develop a primary care data warehouse and a single electronic health record.