Changes flow through for patients

Northland's public health board has been given two pats on the back, one by a doctors' union for making resident doctors' rosters safer and one by the board's paymaster the Government.

The New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (RDA) said Northland District Health Board (NDHB) was ahead of most of the country's 20 boards in creating safer rosters for resident and junior hospital doctors.

The campaign for safer working conditions for resident doctors, therefore making hospitals safer for patients too, was taken up early in the process by the Northland board, the RDA's Northland representative Katie Griggs said. Three of the five affected Northland rosters have been reduced from seven 10-hour consecutive night shifts to a maximum of four shifts in a row, and from 12 day shifts in a row to a maximum of 10.

The board wasto be commended for rectifying the three shifts and partially improving one of the remaining two, Dr Griggs said. However, the RDA is still calling for the board to fill another 1.5 positions so all the affected shifts can be resolved, including on the paediatrics roster, she said.

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Only the Gisborne health board had cut hours and shifts on all its rosters.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman congratulated the Northland board for a marked increase in patients getting specialist medical or surgical services, including elective surgery.

"While there's still more to be done, we are heading in the right direction. The answer to increased demand is to do more - whether it's assessment or operations."

A record number of patients - 22,161 - had a first special medical or surgical assessment in the year 2015/16. That is 22 per cent up on the 2008/09 figure.

The latest National Patient Flow data figures break down to over 8700 people having a first medical specialist consultation and over 13,400 receiving a surgical one in that year. And 8342 patients had elective surgery, a 45 per cent increase (2500 more surgeries) since 2008/09.