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Coleman defends his surgery record

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 26/04/2016
Jonathan Coleman © Hannah Peters/Getty Images Jonathan Coleman

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says he'll never be satisfied with patients missing out on surgery but no government has ever been able to meet all their needs.

Data released on Tuesday showed more than 7000 people missed out on elective surgery over a three-month period last year - thousands more than initially thought.

It showed 7229 patients referred to hospital specialists by GPs between July 1 and September 30 didn't meet the threshold for publicly-funded elective surgery.

Provisional figures released in March showed 5335 patients had missed out.

All up, 158,214 patients were referred for a first assessment by a specialist, and 87 per cent of referrals were accepted.

"I will never be satisfied with those figures because I want more and more people to get access to the services they need," Dr Coleman said on RNZ on Wednesday.

"The only answer to unmet need is to do more and we are - an extra 110,000 appointments over our time in government, 26 per cent more than when we came in, and a 42 per cent uplift in surgeries, an extra 50,000 a year."

Dr Coleman says the data shows 87 per cent of GP referrals were accepted, five per cent were declined because they didn't meet the threshold, and the other eight per cent were held back basically because hospitals needed more information.

"No government has ever been able to provide all the appointments every patient might want or possibly need in the opinion of their GPs," he said.

Health Funds Association, the industry body representing health insurers, says it confirms what they already knew - more and more people are waiting for elective surgery.

Chief executive Roger Styles said the association's own figures showed up to 280,000 people were waiting.

"More and more people need surgery, but our public system is stretching just to keep pace with growing demand, while less urgent cases have to wait longer and longer," he said,

Thresholds are set by individual District Health Boards to prioritise access to elective surgeries.

The government started collecting referral data in July 2014.

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