National focuses on boosting immunisation

National will ensure that by the end of 2014, 95 per cent of all eight-month-old children are fully immunised with three scheduled vaccinations, Prime Minister and National Party Leader John Key announced today.

In addition, National will roll out a $12 million nation-wide rheumatic fever programme, which will target communities vulnerable to the disease.

“Our Preventive Care policy focuses on giving New Zealand’s children the best start in life,” says Mr Key. “Immunising babies sets them up for a healthier childhood, helping their immune systems become more responsive. Rheumatic fever is an entirely preventable disease, and one that can have serious consequences for children during childhood and throughout their lifetime.

‘Effective preventive healthcare plays a vital part in preventing disease. Our child immunisation rates are at all-time highs, but there is still more to be done to set up young New Zealanders for a healthier life.

The announcement comes as part of the second stage of National’s health policy, which focuses on Preventive Healthcare, Maternity and Child Health, Primary Care, Disability Services and Mental Health Services.

It also builds on the National-led Government’s decision to invest $33 million to expand specialist mental health services for young offenders to help reduce re-offending. National will also develop the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project, which will focus on improving services for 13- to 19-year-olds with problems such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

“National is focused on improving all aspects of New Zealanders’ health, and experience of the health system. Underpinning our policy is the drive to give New Zealanders better value from the health system, and from the country’s public service.

“We are determined to ensure all New Zealanders get the health service they deserve – better, sooner and more convenient,” says Mr Key.

“National has already committed to keep increasing the number of elective operations, reduce waiting times and deliver faster, more convenient healthcare for all New Zealanders.

“Today’s announcement reinforces that approach to other key areas of our health system. We are ensuring New Zealanders, right from birth, get the best, most effective health care as quickly as possible.”

Mr Key says expectant parents will continue to get access to quality maternity services – and their babies will receive first-class health services throughout childhood.

“Every child deserves the best start in life. That’s why National will work with midwives, doctors and other health professionals to further improve the quality and safety of maternity care. We will also ensure all children are enrolled with a GP or WellChild provider at birth.

“Our Primary Care policy centres around bringing together hospital and community health services to improve patient care. Despite the worst economic conditions in decades, National is investing a further $100 million in patient subsidies for GP visits.

“We are extending free GP care for children under the age of six to include after-hours visits. To complement this, National will roll out a comprehensive after-hours telephone advice service, so patients will have access to GPs, nurses and pharmacists.”

Under National, the number of Integrated Family Healthcare Centres will continue to grow.

“These one-stop-shops offer a range of services and medical specialists under one roof, which can offer extended opening hours, on-site radiology, day surgical procedures and other facilities.”

Mr Key says National’s Disability and Mental Health policies will focus on providing people with disabilities and mental illness with the best access to services and tools they need most.

“We’ve invested an extra $100 million in disability services over the past three years. We will continue to roll out the Local Area Coordinator Programme, which aims to give people with disabilities more control over which supports they wish to use, depending on their circumstances.

“Good, effective healthcare – encompassing all aspects of our public health system – will help all New Zealanders thrive,” says Mr Key.