A new programme that will provide free throat swabs and treatment with no appointment needed will contribute to the fight against Northland's high rate of rheumatic fever.

Twelve new "drop-in sore throat clinics" will be launched across Northland in general practices (GPs), pharmacies and secondary schools.

The clinics will mean people aged 4 to 19 years old, at high risk of rheumatic fever who have a sore throat, will not need to book an appointment to get free swabbing and treatment.

Jeanette Wedding, general manager, Child, Youth, Maternal and Oral Health at Northland District Health Board (NDHB), said the new Rapid Response initiative was about removing barriers to health care.


"Barriers to accessing sore throat treatment in general practice for these children include being dependent on their parent or caregiver for making an appointment, distance and transport and the need to take time off work and school."

Ms Wedding said the programme, which is set to be fully operational by June, helped as it provided families with alternatives to GPs.

"Despite having greater health needs, the children in Northland at highest risk of rheumatic fever have traditionally used traditional general practice services less than those at lower risk."

Statistics released to the Northern Advocate by the NDHB showed fewer admissions to hospital of first-time episodes of acute rheumatic fever were recorded in 2014 than 2013.

However, NDHB paediatrician Roger Tuck said Northland's rheumatic fever situation was still comparable to those of a Third World country.

Northland DHB has funded a pilot at pharmacies in Otaika and Kensington that proved to be a success.

"Results show that the majority of children seeking care in the pilot are at high risk for rheumatic fever."

Following the success of the pilot, services are being rolled out to four pharmacies, with two in Whangarei, one in Dargaville and another being negotiated in the mid-north."


Seven new high school-based throat swabbing programmes were also being established during the months of March and April at Kaitaia College, Te Kura Kaupapa o Rangiawhia (Karikari Peninsula), Okaihau College, Bay of Islands College (provided by the Moko programme), Te Kura Hourua Ki Whangaruru, Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa, Tikipunga High School (provided by Ki A Ora Ngatiwai) and will kick off in term 2.

Ms Wedding said the areas where GP and pharmacy drop-in clinics would be based had been carefully chosen.

"[They] have been chosen based on there being no school-based throat swabbing services in those areas, combined with the proportion of children known to be at high risk of rheumatic fever living there."