When I saw a Facebook post asking people to sing Labour’s petition to save the Poison Helpline I thought it was being axed.
That is no doubt the impression Labour wants to give, but it’s not the right one.
The Ministry of Health, which funds the service isn’t planning to axe it, it is proposing merging it with a range of other triage, advice, counselling and referral services.
This integrated service will provide consistent, high quality advice across the country sign posting callers to appropriate services and care.
The service will provide a multi-channel approach including telephone triage and phone advice; text; email; phone applications; social media and web-based services. The enhanced telehealth service is expected to:
- reduce the pressure on after hours primary care (ie ambulance services, doctors and emergency departments making good use of local health and injury services across the country)
- be integrated to improve effectiveness in the development, monitoring and advertising of these services.
Services are currently delivered by a mix of commercial, university, and non-government organisations that together handle around 2 million calls by the public per year. The included services are: Healthline, Quitline, Poisonline, Immunisation advice for the public, Alcohol and drug helpline, Depression helplines and Gambling Helpline. . . .
Having one number to call would make it easier for people to the right help sooner, rather than ringing one, finding it’s not the right one and having to call another.
For example people might call Healthline now instead of the Poisonline and even a very few minutes delay in getting the right advice could have very serious consequences.
A single number might make it easier for people who feel embarrassed about calling a drug or alcohol helpline too.
If the triaging under the new system works well, people will get the right help and get it sooner.
Instead of no service which the petition suggests, the merger should provide better service.