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Diabetes Programme Not Working - Ryall

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tony Ryall
Tony Ryall

By Matthew Backhouse of NZPA

Wellington, Oct 21 NZPA - A free diabetes check-up programme could be scrapped if its disappointing performance can't be turned around, Health Minister Tony Ryall says.

Only six of the 21 district health boards (DHBs) met their targets for uptake of the Diabetes Get Checked programme in the year to June, according to the Ministry of Health's annual report, released yesterday.

Mr Ryall said that made the cardiovascular-diabetes target the most disappointing of the six national health targets.

"What's clear is that the current Diabetes Get Checked programme is not working," he told NZPA.

"Across the country we've only got 55 percent of diabetics turning up for their free diabetes check. It's free, and they're not turning up."

Mr Ryall said he had appointed a national clinical director for diabetes, Dr Brandon Orr-Walker, to review and fix and the annual check-up programme.

"The Government's made it clear that unless we can get the Diabetes Get Checked programme working better, then we're going to look at something else."

Mr Ryall said he was pleased with improvements across the other health targets.

"I think the results show we're making real progress in the health service, particularly in some of those key areas -- elective surgery, cancer waiting times and emergency departments."

The number of people undergoing elective surgery exceeded the target by 5 percent, with 138,376 elective surgeries performed in the year to June, up 8607 over last year.

Immunisation was also "a great success", with the national immunisation rate for 2-year-old children at 87 percent -- well up on last year's rate of 80 percent, and exceeding the target by 2 percent.

The cancer treatment target was nearly reached, with 99 percent of all patients receiving radiation treatment within six weeks, but the target for emergency department waiting times fell short.

A total of 87 percent of patients were admitted, discharged or transferred from emergency departments within six hours, compared with the target of 95 percent.

However, steady improvements were made over the year, from 80.3 of patients being treated within six hours in the first quarter, to 86.8 percent in the last quarter.

Mr Ryall said a number of the larger hospital emergency departments needed to make more progress.

"The ED target is actually a whole-of-system target, so the only way that the emergency department can meet those targets is if the rest of the hospital is helping."

The smoking cessation target was another that fell short, with fewer than the desired 80 percent of hospitalised smokers being given quitting advice.

But there were significant gains over the year, from 16.6 percent in the first quarter to 56.9 percent in the last.

More than 6400 smokers were offered quitting advice in June, compared with 1500 in September last year.

Mr Ryall said the results were good, given that hospitals had "basically started from zero".

"It's the first time we've implemented this into the public hospitals, where every patient gets asked if they're a smoker."

Mr Ryall said the ministry had made a lot of progress in freeing up resources by reducing its staff numbers.

The ministry cut more than 90 staff, with full-time workers at 1338 at the end of June, compared with 1430 at the beginning of 2009-10. Staff numbers were expected to be cut below the 1290 target by June next year.

"That's allowed us to put quite a lot of money into frontline services for DHBs -- probably around about $25 million to $30 million," Mr Ryall said.

The government spent a total of $12.6 billion on health and disability in the year to June.

Overall health sector spending was at the expected level, although the government would continue to "trawl through" the numbers to find more areas where money could be saved.

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