GPs putting fees up

A reader received this e-mail from their local medical centre. They encourage people to e-mail the Health Minister and local MP over the increased fees:

Kia Ora 

We are very sorry that we have had to increase our patient fees and can understand the frustration and anger that this may cause our patients. (The updated fee schedule will be available on our website from the 15th of August.)

Why has this happened?

This increase is as a direct result of the government imposing a significant real terms cut in funding from our services with effect 1 July 2022.

As of 31 March 2022, national inflation rises were running at 6.9%. Additionally, general practice has experienced a range of further cost pressures which has meant our total costs have risen by over 10% compared to this time last year. The government has imposed a funding increase of just 3%. Our national representative body has been having further discussions with government officials but, to date, they are being ignored. General practice has no right or contractual means to negotiate our funding, despite what you might have heard the Minister of Health stating in the media.

We want to treat our staff fairly. Our nurses and GPs have continued providing core services as well as providing our essential COVID response over the past two years. Yet the government funds our staff at a much lower level than equivalent doctors and nurses doing the same level of work in government-run hospital settings.

We think this is unfair. We also think it is important that we can retain essential staff to be able to continue providing essential services for you. We are well aware that our staff could choose to go and work overseas for a much higher salary – and they could do so tomorrow.

What if I can’t afford the increased fees?

Most importantly, you should not avoid seeking medical help when needed. If you have any problems paying or the fees put you off from seeing a doctor when you need one – please talk to us about it.  For medical emergencies, you always have the right to attend and be seen at the Emergency Department at our local hospital – and there is no charge for this service.

What can I do to help?

Firstly, thank you for asking and for allowing us to explain this no-win situation we have found ourselves in. We hope we can reverse the government’s decision and reduce our fees again.

Your understanding and offer of support is important to us, and you can definitely help if you wish to. This can be done very simply by e-mailing or writing to our local MP and the Minister of Health to express your concern at the government’s decision to reduce funding for essential family doctor services.

Below, we have suggested a possible message. You are of course welcome to create your own message of support.

Thank you
The Practice Team

Suggested e-mail to:
Hon Andrew Little, Minister of Health

Kia ora
I am writing to express my anger at the real-terms funding cut imposed on my essential family doctor service from 1 July 2022.

This is not the action I expect from my government when this essential service is already struggling to recruit and retain staff in the face of historic underfunding.

I understand that the nurses in my family doctor service are already funded at a level which is well below that of their colleagues in the government’s own hospital-based service. I note that if I attend the Emergency Department at my local hospital, the service is free of charge.

I urge you to reverse this funding cut and address the significant crisis which is happening right now before we have no doctors or nurses left to serve in my community. I would be grateful for an individual reply to confirm what action you will be taking to avert this crisis which is happening on your watch.

Ngā mihi
[your name]
If writing, letter can be addressed to: 

Hon Andrew Little            
Minister of Health                
Freepost Parliament                
Private Bag 18 888                
Parliament Buildings             
Wellington 6160