Navigating the New Zealand health sector

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20 July 2018

Have you ever tried to explain to a new graduate, or someone who has immigrated to New Zealand, what all the different health sector organisations do and how they fit together?

It’s not easy, is it?

There are a couple of reasons for that.

First, the reality is that there are multiple organisations and structures, many with similar sounding names, and often with quite a bit of cross-over in what they do.

You’ve got the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Health Quality and Safety Commission. You’ve got the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance (HPCA) Act, the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act, and the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act. You’ve got Medsafe, which regulates medicines, and PHARMAC, which decides which medicines to fund.

And just to add to the confusion, the health sector really loves a good acronym: you’ve got the DHBs, the PHOs, the MoH and of course the ACC. And don’t forget about the HPDT – that is, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, which can strike you off the register if you do things that you shouldn’t be doing. It’s enough to make the clearest of minds boggle.

Secondly, New Zealand’s health sector is truly unique. As New Zealanders, we seem to be inherently at risk of overstating our uniqueness and sitting back, smugly, knowing that we really do live in the best country in the world. But when it comes to systems for regulating health professionals and health services, the claim is valid. New Zealand really is unique. And complicated.

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