The devil will be in the detail as to whether Budget 2022 will fix major issues general practitioners are facing in the health sector, the chairman of Whanganui's primary health organisation says.
The Government announced in its budget on Thursday $102 million would go towards community healthcare to help with identifying and treating issues earlier to prevent small things from getting worse and needing hospital attention.
"A shift to focusing on better, earlier care at GPs and local health centres will ensure New Zealand's health system can provide quality care, at the right time, and in the right place, while taking pressure off our hospitals," Minister of Health Andrew Little said.
"This investment will grow primary healthcare teams around the country and allow GPs to work more seamlessly with services like physiotherapists, pharmacists and social workers to offer greater care, earlier, and closer to home."
GPs in high-needs areas would also be backed with $86 million of new funding over four years so they could offer more care through improved opening hours and more appointments.
There was also $76 million to develop the health workforce "with a focus on primary care", Little said.
Whanganui Regional Health Network board chairman Dr Ken Young said he was concerned there wasn't a specific commitment to increase the GP workforce.
"Because there's a lot of GPs that are my age - or some older ... we are facing a workforce crisis," Young said.
He was supportive of GP practices like the Bulls Medical Centre taking on more jobs that were usually having to be carried out by the hospital. Those were things like intravenous antibiotics, intravenous infusions and removing skin lesions for skin cancer.
"We're already doing those things," Young said. "If we can provide a safe and quality service in the community - and it's more accessible for people - then that's what we would be really keen to do."
Primary carers like GPs needed a workforce that could handle an increased workload if they were going to be taking that on to avoid pressure on hospitals, Young said.
He said the threat of becoming a place that trained health workers who then left to work overseas was real and people needed to be paid more.
"I wouldn't just limit it to GPs. I would point out our nursing teams who don't have the same scales as the district health board nurses that are often working in an equally complex and challenging environment."
Elsewhere in the budget, Young said funding for Māori health was a good start as there was an inequity gap that needed closing.
Overall, Young said it was hard to know how the big spending announcements would flow down to everyday patients and the care they received.
"The devil will be in the detail," he said. "There's some good bits in the budget - there's a bit more I'd like more detail on before getting overly enthused about.
"I've seen lots of budgets come and go ... there's lots of numbers thrown around but there's also some smoke and mirrors."
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners said it was disappointed the budget did not address their workforce shortage.
College president Dr Samantha Murton said while setting up the new Health NZ and Māori Health Authority was important, the GP workforce issue needed more commitment.
"[Thursday] is World Family Doctor Day, which has the tagline of 'always there to care', and we are in danger of not being there in the not-too-distant future if there continues to be so little focus on developing the general practitioner workforce."
The College said it welcomed the investment in developing the allied workforce in the community, but those jobs could not replace vocationally trained GPs who delivered specialist diagnosis skills that others couldn't.
"As more GPs are nearing retirement age or thinking of leaving the profession early due to burnout, there will be no ability to provide more consultations and longer opening hours, let alone train the new generation of general practitioners who are coming through our training programme," Murton said.
"There needs to be a solid investment in training more general practitioners and rural hospital doctors so we can continue to provide complex medical care in the community, or it is the patients who will miss out."
The College said 10 extra general practitioners per 100,000 people meant about 30 people a year wouldn't die from cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular issues.
She welcomed the fast-track residency announcement for GPs overseas wanting to move here but she said there needed to be more of a commitment to growing this country's doctor pool.
The College welcomed "solid investment" into mental health, Pharmac and funding for a diabetes prevention and treatment programme targeted at Pasifika communities in South Auckland.