Latest figures show a record number of Lakes District Health Board patients received a medical or surgical First Specialist Assessment (FSA) last year.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said increasing access to specialist care was a priority for the Government and new data showed more people in the Lakes area than ever before were receiving FSA's.
"13,649 Lakes patients received a medical or surgical FSA in 2015 compared to 11,414 in 2009 - that's a 20 per cent increase," said Dr Coleman.
4,985 Lakes patients received a medical FSA last year, compared to 4,193 in 2009 - a 19 per cent increase. 8,664 patients received a surgical FSA last year, compared to 7,221 in 2009 - an increase of 20 per cent.
FSAs cover over 10 specific surgical services including ophthalmology, ear nose and throat, and general surgery. In Lakes the number of orthopaedic assessments increased by 30 per cent - from 1,681 in 2009 to 2,180 in 2015.
"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 assessments or operations," said Dr Coleman.
"These improvements are a credit to our dedicated health workforce, and are supported by the $400 million extra invested into health in Budget 2015."
This is supported by the $54 million funding increase Lakes DHB had received over the last seven years. This includes $6 million in new money for this year, taking the DHB's total funding to $304 million for 2015/2016.
FSAs are carried out by hospital based specialists after referral by a GP.
They are defined into two categories:
Surgical FSAs are for patients whose condition is managed by a surgeon, for example - orthopaedics, general surgery, ophthalmology. Medical FSAs are for patients whose condition is managed by a physician, for example - cardiology, respiratory, diabetes. They do not involve surgery.