This section describes how New Zealand’s health system works so you know how to access the help you need when you need it.
Healthcare in New Zealand is a mixture of free and subsidised services (you pay a fee), with some requiring prior appointment and others not. For example:
- most hospital visits and visits to the family General Practitioner (GP) for children aged under 13 are free
- GP's appointments for other age groups and picking up a prescription from the pharmacy do cost, even with a Government subsidy (the government pays part of the cost).
Who can access free healthcare in New Zealand?
Free and subsidised care is only available to New Zealand residents, with some exceptions for visitors from countries like the UK and Australia. This is because these countries have reciprocal agreements, which allow New Zealanders to access their healthcare services in a similar way.
Check your eligibility for free or subsidised health services Ministry of Health NZ
Reciprocal agreements Ministry of Health NZ, 2011
Why should I register with a clinic?
Visits to the GP cost less if you enrol with them and continue to visit the same practice each time you need to see the doctor or practice nurse. If you enrol with one clinic, then visit a different one, your visit may cost more. Seeing a GP or picking up a prescription outside usual working hours 8.30am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, often costs more as well.
Do I need an appointment?
Most family doctors operate on an appointment-only basis, but some offer walk-in services. Non-urgent appointments at the hospital can generally only be obtained by a referral from your GP.
You don’t need a referral in an emergency to attend hospital, but if you have attended an after-hours clinic first you may get a referral to speed up your processing once arriving at hospital.
What about laboratory tests and other procedures?
If you need a blood test, urine test, x-ray, ultrasound or other diagnostic procedure – you can access these, most of the time, for free if you have been referred by a GP or midwife. There are some cases where you may have to pay for these tests. Check with your referring health professional about any costs if this is unclear.
Do I have to pay when I have an accident?
In most cases, you won’t have to pay for care after an accident. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) is a Government agency that provides no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand. Anyone needing emergency care in a hospital as a result of an accident will be covered by ACC.
ACC may also contribute to a wide range of medical costs associated with accidents, including doctor’s visits, treatment from various other health professionals, surgery, x-rays and prescriptions.
New Zealand Health Strategy for 2016
"The 2016 New Zealand Health Strategy refreshes the previous strategy, developed in 2000. It was developed with the help of sector leaders, independent reports, extensive public consultation, and was informed by other government programmes and initiatives." (Information sourced from Ministry of Health, 2016).
The Strategy has two parts:
New Zealand Health Strategy: Future direction
New Zealand Health Strategy: Roadmap of actions 2016
"The New Zealand Health Strategy: Future direction outlines the high level direction for New Zealand’s health system over the 10 years from 2016 to 2026. It lays out some of the challenges and opportunities the system faces; describes the future we want, including the culture and values that will underpin this future; and identifies five strategic themes for the changes that will take us toward this future." (Information sourced from Ministry of Health, 2016).
Download the New Zealand Health Strategy: Future direction (in PDF) or view it online
Roadmap of actions 2016
"The New Zealand Health Strategy: Roadmap of actions 2016 identifies 27 areas for action over five years to make the Strategy happen. The actions are organised under the five themes of the Strategy. This roadmap will be updated over the 10-year lifetime of the Strategy." (Information sourced from Ministry of Health, 2016).
Download the New Zealand Health Strategy: Roadmap of actions 2016 (in PDF) or view it online