The Labour Party is promising to expand mental health services to young people, undertake more planned care including elective surgeries, fund more medicines and provide targeted dental support to those who need it the most in the next phase of rebuilding New Zealand’s health system.

  • Making mental health support available to all primary and intermediate school age students in the country and continued roll out of nurses in secondary schools
  • Increased funding to reduce waiting lists
  • Significant funding boost for PHARMAC
  • Double the number of cochlear implants
  • Dental health grants of up to $1000 for those on low incomes and 20 additional mobile dental clinics

“When we were elected there was a lot to turn around after nine years of neglect under National. Over the last three years we have invested a record $3 billion extra into our DHBs, allocated $3.5 billion to fix our run down hospitals, hired more nurses and doctors and made the largest ever investment in mental health services - but there is more to do,” Labour Health spokesperson Chris Hipkins said.

“We’ve also invested $2 billion in the health fight against COVID-19 so far. This investment has saved lives and demonstrated we need to keep investing in rebuilding our health system.

“The next step in our expansion of mental health support will see the roll out of mental health and wellbeing support services to every primary and intermediate-aged school child in New Zealand over the next five years.

“We know that providing support early to young people works and can help prevent mental health issues manifesting later in life.

“The Mana Ake programme in the Canterbury region has made a huge difference to children and families adversely affected by the earthquakes and terror attack.

“Our plan will expand the workforce of social workers, counsellors, teachers, youth workers and psychologists who will go into schools to help, support and build resilience for our school children equipping them with skills which will help them for the rest of their lives.

“Analysis by Impact Lab on the effects of Mana Ake in Canterbury shows for every dollar invested in the programme $13 in value is returned to New Zealand – in improved mental health, educational achievement and physical health, and fewer addiction and mental health incidents.

“We will also expand, in tranches, the nurses in schools programme that currently covers decile 1 – 5 secondary schools to include all other state and state-integrated secondary schools, benefiting thousands of students.

“The 2020 Budget allocated over $282 million to assist with the catch up of planned care as a result of COVID disruptions. Labour is now committing an additional $200 million to reduce waiting lists further.

“This funding boost will go to help the likes of the hundreds of women who suffer from endometriosis and are waiting on surgery and consultations.

“This funding will see thousands more procedures go ahead and help to reduce the pressure on surgery waiting lists.

“Labour is proud of our investment in medicines over the last three years. We increased the PHARMAC budget by over 20 percent which has benefited more than 200,000 people.

“We are now committing an additional $200 million to ensure more medicines can be funded for more New Zealanders.

“While PHARMACs purchasing decisions are at arm’s length from the government, when we provided a $60 million boost to their budget in 2019 it resulted in a range of new medicines, including several new cancer treatments, being funded, and we would anticipate a similar result from this extra investment.

“Cochlear implants can be life changing for those New Zealanders who suffer from hearing loss. We will invest $28 million into doubling the number of implants undertaken each year from 80 to 160.

“This policy will not only improve an individuals’ hearing, but also ensure they have greater access to employment, training and enhance their overall wellbeing.

“We know oral health is a significant issue, especially for those on low incomes for whom cost is a barrier to access the services they need.

“Labour will target $176 million into improved access to dental care for those New Zealanders who need it the most.

“We will increase the maximum grant for emergency oral health care from $300 to $1000, which will go a lot further to covering the actual cost of dental work.

“The rate of the Special Needs Grant for dental care hasn’t moved in over two decades and is inadequate to cover most dental procedures. Increasing support for dental care was a recommendation in the WEAG report and this policy will make a real difference to many on a benefit.

“We know that Maori children access dental services at lower rates than Pakeha children, leading to worse dental outcomes. Mobile dental clinics with full services that visit schools is one way to ensure all children access dental care equitably.

“We will invest $37.5 million to provide an additional 20 full service mobile dental clinics and focus them on hard to reach areas where access to services is currently limited.

“A central focus of a returned Labour Government will be the roll out of our plan to improve the public health system to deliver high quality services, fewer DHBs, an increased focus on equity, a Maori Health Authority that will focus on Maori health, an aged care commissioner and a Public Health Agency that will more closely link the country’s 12 public health units.

“We know the next few years will be an economic challenge as we continue to fight our way out of COVID-19, but as a responsible political party we also know properly funding public services such as health is an investment not a cost.

“Paul Goldsmith’s error ridden budget allocates less to cover cost pressures across all Government services than we put into health alone this year. In the middle of a global pandemic they are effectively proposing service cuts to healthcare. National is putting New Zealanders’ health at risk.

“Labour can be trusted to deliver the health system New Zealanders need and deserve. We have come through the COVID pandemic even more committed to further strengthening our public health system,” Chris Hipkins said.