Can our kids get to a doctor when they need to?


Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is calling on the government to take action to improve children’s after-hours access to doctors.

 The call comes as a paper published in the Journal of Primary Health Care highlights the importance of cost as a barrier to healthcare, and the key role this can play in New Zealand’s poor child health statistics.

Paper co-author Dr Nikki Turner says there must be more funding made available for after-hours and weekend visits for under-6s. “While most doctors’ practices offer free visits during work hours, visits at other times are largely not funded, and this is a significant gap in children’s healthcare. Weekends in particular need greater attention, as can be seen with the number of children turning up for treatment at hospital accident and emergency departments.”

The paper also notes New Zealand’s poor child health data compared to other countries. New Zealand ranked lowest of 29 countries for child health outcomes in a 2009 OECD report. Dr Turner says that better access to doctor’s services would be an important step in reversing this. “One in five New Zealand children live in poverty and New Zealand’s rates of preventable disease in this group are among the highest in the developed world. We need improved funding for children’s primary healthcare, and to find more innovative ways to ensure the funding gets to where the need is greatest.”

The paper hopes to provide a focus for a debate on how better to fund children’s healthcare across New Zealand’s diverse communities. The authors acknowledge that the issue is complex and challenging but must be addressed if New Zealand’s poor child health statistics are to improve. CPAG encourages all agencies and individuals with an interest in child health to take action to improve children’s access to healthcare at all times.