Proposed Government health cuts to the insertion of grommets will see more children unable to listen and learn in school, say the Labour Party.

The National Health Committee has been told to find savings of $30 million this financial year from elective procedures deemed to be of little benefit.

Under the plans the insertion of grommets is the only elective procedure specifically targeted for "disinvestment".

The money would be used for smarter investment in other parts of the health system.


Grommets are tiny ventilation tubes placed in an incision in the eardrum to treat persistent, painful infections called glue ear.

Labour's health spokeswoman Maryan Street said children didn't need any further barriers to learning and development.

"The insertion of grommets is a critical and very brief operation, usually on young children whose poor hearing, due to persistent ear infections, limits learning and development," she said.

The committee will assess the cost of new medical technologies, drawing on a Welsh health system report that evaluated 550 elective procedures deemed to be of "relatively low priority".

The committee have created a list with 25 procedures within a New Zealand context that receive public funding worth $641 million.

It will not name the 25 procedures, saying its work is only preliminary.

Ms Street said there was no detail on how the funding would be redirected

Labour supports easing elective surgery targets, which Ms Street said were producing distortions within the health system; but said any money saved should be invested in measure to prevent the need for surgery.


She has called on Minister of Health Tony Ryall to front any decision on elective procedures, rather than the committee.

"Tony Ryall has constantly made a big deal of achieving more elective surgical procedures than ever before, so to cut $30 million in this area seems counterintuitive."

The report from the Welsh health system list of specific procedures included tonsillectomy, grommets, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, dilatation and curettage, hysterectomy, gallbladder removal, caesarean section, lower-back procedures, circumcision, eye-lid surgery, nose surgery and surgery to correct protruding ears.