Strategic change and funding boost for cardiac surgery

Tuesday 7 October 2008, 6:41PM
By David Cunliffe

Minister of Health David Cunliffe today announced details of a multi-million dollar plan to lift New Zealand's cardiac surgery rate by at least 25 percent over four-years, as apart of a major strategic review of nationwide cardiac service delivery.

The funding and support package agreed to by Government responds to the clinically led Cardiac Surgery Service Development Working Group Report.

"The four year $50 million plan will give certainty to District Health Boards so they can progressively increase staff in the many specialist areas required to consistently deliver heart surgery at this higher level," Mr Cunliffe said.

The working group included cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, intensive care, anaesthetic and nursing specialists - from the private and public sectors, supported by the Ministry of Health.

The Report noted that:

  • The current delivery of cardiac services would be improved by a national prioritisation system rather than the current regionalisation so that patients are more consistently treated in order of need
  • Capacity, workforce and alignment issues need to be addressed to improve prioritisation and reduce time to treatment.
  • Cardiac surgical services are easily disrupted due to the complex requirements for patient preparation the large numbers of specialist staff involved and the risk of urgent acute cases disrupting scheduled procedures, including for ICU capacity.

The following system changes were recommended by the group and t agreed to by the Government: 

  • A nationwide prioritisation system to ensure all New Zealanders regardless of location have access to the same high level of funding.
  • Greater collaboration across DHBs to deliver increased services.
  • An implementation taskforce to oversee immediate workforce development initiatives and to report regularly.
  • Clinically led redesign of patient, theatre and ICU scheduling systems to reduce cancellations and increase throughput.

The report also recommended a substantial resource increase to move New Zealand closer to the current level of intervention in the UK, similar to what is already being provided at Otago DHB.

As an immediate step towards this the Government has committed an additional $50 million for cardiac service from within the health budget.

Mr Cunliffe said the Government has set a four year interim target of 65 per 100,000 intervention which will be achievable - an increase of more than 600 patients a year receiving surgery.

"Moving towards nationally consistent prioritisation of patients across the five cardiac centres will ensure those with greatest need and ability to benefit get fairer access to services regardless of where they live," Mr Cunliffe said.

"The nature of this complex service means we are working closely with the sector to improve the service in a sustainable manner that will reduce surgery cancellation."

"I asked this group to advise me on what actions I should take and they've delivered on that.  They've worked incredibly hard to pull together this report and its recommendations," he said.  

"I would like to thank them for their hard-work that will improve cardiac intervention rates for New Zealanders and deliver a service more in tune with the needs of those working on the frontline of this complex and vital health service."

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