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Free radiology access for New Zealanders

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Staff Reporter

07 June 2024, 12:58 AM

Free radiology access for New ZealandersFunding aims to reduce healthcare wait times

New Zealanders will now benefit from free radiology services, thanks to a $30 million investment announced by Health Minister Dr. Shane Reti.

The initiative aims to provide faster diagnoses and improve health outcomes across the country.

"Our Budget last Thursday delivered the foundations for a thriving New Zealand economy, but also for better public services that Kiwis deserve," Dr. Reti said.

"Part of that is ensuring New Zealanders have timely access to healthcare when they need it."

Currently, access to radiology services varies significantly across the country.

Some areas experience longer wait times than others, impacting the timely diagnosis of medical conditions.

The new funding aims to standardise access, allowing general practitioners to refer patients directly for X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds without the need for specialist consultations.

"Access to radiology services is inconsistent across the country, and our investment of $30 million through Health New Zealand baseline funding will enable faster access to radiology services so New Zealanders can get more timely diagnoses," Dr. Reti explained.

"This investment will remove co-payments on X-ray, CT scans, and diagnostic ultrasound, whilst also enabling primary health providers to refer patients directly where clinically appropriate. Having consistent access to radiology services is critical for timely diagnosis, high-quality care, and improved health outcomes."

Under the current system, the availability of radiology services depends on the policies of former district health boards, creating disparities.

"At the moment, some New Zealanders are having to wait weeks or months to see a hospital specialist who then refers them to radiology services, where they may wait even longer," Dr. Reti said.

"Enabling primary health providers to refer patients directly, without waiting for a specialist, will help New Zealanders get an earlier diagnosis and enable specialists to determine the right treatment sooner."

This funding initiative is part of a broader strategy to enhance public services and improve health outcomes for all New Zealanders, ensuring that timely and equitable healthcare becomes a reality for everyone across the country.