Child Poverty Action Group welcomes announcement on free after-hours visits
Child Poverty Action Group has welcomed the National Party's promise of free after-hours doctors visits for children under 6. However as there will be 'no new money' to fund the service, the Group cautions against cutting other children’s services to fund the new policy.
Currently most children under 6 receive free doctors’ visits, but only in usual business hours. CPAG children’s health spokesperson Professor Innes Asher says many children get sick or injured outside normal work hours, and this has been a significant barrier to seeking timely medical help for many children.
“We are delighted that the government has made this a policy priority. Making primary care free at all times reduces the risk of mild symptoms such as a bad skin sore becoming more serious such that the child needs admission to hospital for intravenous treatment and even surgery. As we have seen with outbreaks of meningococcal disease, early diagnosis and treatment is critical, and this applies to many other illnesses such as pneumonia, asthma and gastroenteritis. New Zealand has shockingly high rates of admission to hospital for such diseases which are preventable with good primary care. This new initiative will be of real benefit especially to the most vulnerable children, and ultimately to society as a whole. The next step will be extending free GP care to all children under 18 as occurs in the UK where rates of hospital admission for preventable diseases are much lower”.
While CPAG welcomes the investment in children’s health, as there will be 'no new money' to fund the service, the group cautions against cutting other children’s services to fund the new policy.
“New Zealand has a poor record of investing in children. It is time for our overall investment in this area to increase. It is important to avoid reducing one necessary children’s service to fund another. In the meantime, this is welcome news, and is a policy we hope achieves wide political support,” said Professor Asher.