Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced faster access to treatment for people whose doctors suspect have cancer:
If your doctor suspects you have cancer, the Government will ensure you see a cancer specialist and receive treatment faster than ever before.
Health Minister Tony Ryall announced a new faster cancer treatment target will be introduced from 1 October during a visit to the Cancer Society’s Domain Lodge this afternoon with Prime Minister John Key.
“The new target will extend the scope of the current health target so people with suspected cancer receive faster access to all services from diagnostic tests to surgery or other treatment,” says Mr Ryall.
“Waiting for a cancer diagnosis is a very stressful time for people and their families.
“We inherited cancer services which were failing New Zealanders. Patients were waiting months for treatment and some had to travel to Australia because of lengthy delays here. Thankfully those days are over – all patients now receive radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment within four weeks of being ready to treat.
“We will build on our successful plan and introduce a new national health target which will ensure cancer patients receive their diagnostic tests, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy even faster.
“If your GP suspects you have cancer, you should see a cancer specialist within two weeks. Diagnostic tests and clinical investigations will be completed in a faster, more streamlined way and our goal is for patients to receive their first cancer treatment within a maximum 62 days of their original GP’s referral.
“The new target is much broader than the current cancer health target, which focuses on how long patients wait to start their chemotherapy and radiotherapy when ready to treat. The current cancer target didn’t include surgery, which is often the first treatment step for patients, or the time patients wait to see a cancer specialist and have tests done.
“The maximum 62 days is an international gold standard for cancer treatment. Currently in New Zealand around 60-65 per cent of patients receive their first cancer treatment within this time.
“The new target will be for 90 per cent of patients to receive their first treatment within a maximum 62 days of seeing their GP by June 2017.
“Having a similar target has had a big effect in other countries. When the measure was introduced in the UK in 2001, about 60 per cent of cancer patients received their first treatment within a maximum 62 days – by the end of last year this had risen to over 85 per cent.
Mr Ryall says New Zealand will see similar improvements here.
“This Government has invested more than $100 million extra to support people with cancer and improve services – and we have already made significant progress.
“It is only through the sound economic management of the National-led government that we have been able to invest in, and deliver world-class cancer services.”
Implementing the new target is part of the faster cancer treatment initiative already budgeted for – the Government has already spent $19 million and will spend a further $41 million over the next three years.
“The new maximum 62 day faster cancer treatment target will build on the gains we have made over the past five years and provide New Zealanders with even faster cancer services,” says Mr Ryall.
Better, sooner and more convenient treatment for health problems was one of the promises National made before becoming the government and it’s one that’s working thanks to the Minister and the health professionals who have accepted the challenge of meeting the targets.
Another improvement announced this week is the introduction of a single patient information system for all hospitals in the South Island:
“The South Island Patient Information Care System (SI PICS) will connect hospitals and health services in the South Island so health professionals can share information securely and provide patients with better care,” says Mr Ryall.
“Replacing each district health board’s patient information system with a single streamlined regional system will provide health professionals with more accurate information, and allow them to spend less time on administration and more time on caring for patients.
“It will also manage a number of patient services for district health boards (DHBs), including patient appointments, admissions, discharges, and transfers.
“The new system will also be more timely and cost-efficient than the patient information systems it replaces. Together, the DHBs are expected to save around $40 million over the next 15 years,” says Mr Ryall.
SI PICS will be introduced throughout South Island hospitals in stages, beginning in 2015 with Burwood Hospital in Christchurch and then with hospitals in the Nelson/Marlborough region.
The South Island Alliance, a collaboration of the five South Island DHBs, is working with Orion Health to develop and implement SI PICS. . .
If re-elected National is promising to invest $50 million extra of new money over the next three years in a plan to help New Zealanders live free from bone, muscle and joint pain and provide thousands more people with elective surgery.
“It is estimated up to a quarter of GP consultations are related to arthritis, lower back pain, orthopaedic or other bone, muscle and joint conditions,” says Mr Ryall.
“Experts tell me with earlier intervention we could improve the quality of life for many people suffering from what’s termed musculoskeletal pain, such as osteoarthritis.
“We will invest $6 million to create primary care based early intervention teams that will identify patients who are likely to suffer from bone, muscle & joint conditions in the future and support them to make changes to help prevent patients heading down the path towards surgery.
“The teams will work with a range of community health services such as GPs, dieticians and physiotherapists and will be coordinated through general practice. There will also be close links with hospital services such as rheumatology, orthopaedic and pain services.
“They will provide nutrition and lifestyle advice, assist with pain management and provide education so patients can better manage their condition themselves.
“This approach will enable some patients to be treated early enough to maintain independence. Others however will require surgery.
“To ensure the people requiring surgery receive it faster, we will invest $30 million of the new money to further lift our record numbers of orthopaedic operations – delivering an extra 2250 hip, knee and other orthopaedic operations over the next term in addition to the usual increases.
“The remaining $14 million will deliver more than 1500 extra general surgeries, such as hernia, gallstone and vein conditions.
“As a result of this initiative, plus our normal annual elective surgery increases, we will be providing an extra 14,500 elective operations a year by 2016/17.
“Reducing pain, increasing patient mobility and independence, and increasing elective surgery is a priority for this National-led Government,” says Mr Ryall.
“Thanks to our strong economic management, we have been able to increase our investment in health by an average of $500 million every year we have been in government, and this year the health budget will be a record $15.6 billion.”
This is why National is focussed on the economy, not as an end but the means to better public services and that focus is working for New Zealand.