Labour, along with many people working in healthcare, has been saying for a long time that National’s health targets are narrow and simplistic, short sighted and lack enough focus on the looming problems for the health sector.
Yesterday, the Health Ministry’s briefing to the incoming minsterwas published. The ministry identified the priorities it thinks the government should be focused on:
- Preventing cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases which make up 80% of the disease burden of the total population.
- Improving mental health outcomes.
- Adressing the long term health conditions facing our ageing population including the increaseing incidence of dementia.
Compare that with National’s targets:
- Faster transit through Emergency Departments
- More elective surgery
- Shorter waiting time for cancer treatment
- More immunisations
- Better help for smokers to quit
- Better cardiovascular services
The two sets of prioities do cross over on getting smokers to quit and cardiovascular services although these are the weakest measures in the government’s set. National’s cancer target is for treatment, not prevention and beyond that, the ministry’s prioirites don’t get a look in.
No one is saying that the things the government identifies as priorities are not good, worthy things that we want to see happen in our health system. The problem is that when this narrow focus is combined with reduced funding in real terms, all the other things that the ministry says need to be addressed now before they get out of hand aren’t getting the attention they need.