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Good progress measuring specialist referrals

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says good progress is being made towards accurately measuring patient flow from GPs to hospital based specialists and the outcome of those referrals.

“The Government is focused on delivering better and faster access to health services, including more elective surgeries,” says Dr Coleman.

“We’ve backed that up in Budget 2015 with a further $98 million for increased access to elective surgery. This comes on top of the $110 million committed in Budget 2014.

“The number of patients receiving surgical first specialist assessments has significantly increased over the last six years, from around 260,000 patients a year, to over 315,000 patients assessed each year.

“However there have always been an uncounted percentage of patients who are returned to the care of their GPs.”

The previous Government in 2006 estimated around 25 percent of all GP referrals to specialists were returned to GP care. This would mean that of the 260,000 patients seen each year under Labour, at least 65,000 patients were being referred back to their GPs for care.

“Generally we know that patients can be referred back to their GP for a variety of reasons in addition to not meeting the threshold,” says Dr Coleman. 

“These may be cases where management in primary care is more appropriate such as if the patient has been referred for tests that primary care can access. Patients may also have been referred with incomplete information or to the wrong DHB.

“We are keen to better understand the exact outcomes of GP referrals.

“It is a significant undertaking to standardise the way this data is recorded by different DHBs and to understand referral outcomes. New Zealand will be one of a few countries to be collecting information of this kind at a national level.

“The Ministry of Health is working with DHBs to collect data in a comparable way.

“Ultimately this data will provide more comprehensive information for primary care on their patients.”

The project is on track to release the first set of reliable information in early to mid-2016.


Media contact: Angela Kenealy 021 220 0129


Last updated : Thursday, August 30, 2018

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