Key Points:

Plunketline this morning got confirmation of a $3.75 million grant to keep its 24-hour helpline going.

The Health Ministry ended public funding for the Plunket-operated well-child phone service in April 2006 in favour of McKesson New Zealand, which operates Healthline and successfully tendered for an integrated service.

Plunket then collected 53,000 signatures calling for funding to be restored but the Labour-led Government did not support a re-think.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said today the extended service was being funded through a grant of $3.75 million over 15 months to the end of March next year ($3 million per annum).

By that time, a review of well-child parent information programmes will have been completed and new contracting arrangements would be in place, he said.

Parents Centre New Zealand Inc CEO Viv Gurrey said her parents support organisation "religiously refers" to Plunket and the today's announcement is significant for everyone working in child and parent care.

"These are essential support services. Any service that is provided for parents of small children only ever benefits community and society," Ms Gurrey said.

She said no mother gets a manual when they come home from hospital with a new-born.

"You get this little bundle that you take home and you look at it and you think: My goodness this is all my responsibility.

"The baby cries, the baby may or may not feed properly, all of these things at two or three in the morning are a big deal," Ms Gurrey said.

Fast tracking funding for Plunketline was one of the National Party's commitments for its first 100-days of being in power.

"From today, and through tonight, Plunketline will be offering support and advice to the parents of young New Zealanders 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Mr Ryall said.

Plunket operations manager Lynn McKenzie said the organisation was "delighted" to be offering the service full-time again, having been forced to close the lines between midnight and 7am for the past few years.

"We think this is fantastic and a great day for New Zealand families because we've got a service available any time, any place and are able to answer any questions they have."

The overnight service resumed this morning and the line had already received a number of calls, including one case where the parents were advised to take their child to emergency services.

Ms McKenzie said the helpline had been around for 14 years and was a useful tool for parents. "It's a really good service. We're answering over 73,000 calls each year and our demand is continuing to increase."

New Zealand Nurses Organisation chief executive Geoff Annals said funding the range of services provided by Plunket was "absolutely essential in pro-actively ensuring the health of our young people".

"It is vital that Plunket is fully funded so that it can ensure all of its services can be maintained and increased to meet the community's needs.

"We hope that this action from the Government is a positive signal of further investments in health as there are many areas, including in primary heath, which are in desperate need of additional funding."

A planned parent information review may extend Plunket's support services to include email and online information and chatrooms.

- NZPA