Whanganui District Health Board has taken the first step towards drawing up a joint strategic plan with its Palmerston North-based neighbour, MidCentral District Health Board.
But Whanganui board chairwoman Dot McKinnon said there was no intent to merge the two DHBs.
Ms McKinnon said the aim of the plan was to clarify the shared services between the two DHBs.
"We already share some clinical services, leadership, governance and some support services. It is a sensible move and both DHBs can benefit from sharing services, clinicians, systems and ideas."
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Ms McKinnon said the first phase of the strategic plan was a health needs assessment, which would be carried out this year.
"This assessment will indicate to us what is doing well, what needs improvement and what our future needs may look like."
She said consultation with the public and stakeholders on the plan would take place when the two DHBs began the strategic planning process, probably in 2015.
Ms McKinnon said the plan was "no step towards merging DHBs".
"The plan allows us to plan for the future needs of MidCentral and Whanganui DHBs as autonomous DHBs."
WDHB collaborated on a number of services with MidCentral, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs.
"With the growing cost of safe and available health services, collaboration and sustainability of our DHBs is paramount among all 20 DHBs in New Zealand," Ms McKinnon said.