More families having access to $18 GP visits is welcomed by NZNO but the nursing union cautions against “exaggerated” expected uptakes of schemes involving the Community Services card.
The National Government on 21 August pledged to introduce $18 GP visits for all Community Service Card holders from 1 July and to expand access to the Community Services Card to include everyone receiving an income-related rent subsidy or accommodation supplement. It said the expansion of the Community Services Card would mean 350,000 more people were eligible and overall 600,000 more lower income New Zealanders would have access to $18 GP visits.
Hilary Graham-Smith, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s Associate Professional Services Manager said more families on low incomes being able to pay less for adult GP visits was welcomed, as was the extra help for families in high-housing-cost areas.
But she said extending the access to the Community Services Card to more people was not guaranteed to result in a greater take-up of GP visits because the complicated process to get a Community Services Card was “off-putting and there is a stigma associated with having a card like this, so many don’t bother getting one”.
She added that NZNO commended initiatives that target school-aged children, such as universal access to nurses in every school that had been promised by the Labour Party.
“This approach is likely to result in better health and mental health outcomes for children and youth,” said Graham-Smith. She said it also had the potential to fully utilise the nursing workforce.
“Regardless of who becomes the next Government, we advocate for a review of the funding and delivery of primary health services so that they truly are utilised by all New Zealanders.”