It’s best to see your family doctor when you’re feeling unwell. But when you need care after‑hours, or if there is an emergency, it’s good to know what services are available.
Many health and support services are free or low cost. Here are our top tips for knowing where to go when you need health care:
For non-urgent care during business hours
Visit your family doctor (GP) for non-urgent health concerns. If you’re not enrolled with a GP, visit healthpoint.co.nz to find a local doctor. Most GPs provide free visits for children under six years old and many provide free care for those under 13 years old. Most people receive subsidised care if they are enrolled with the GP practice they visit.
It’s best to see your GP for non-urgent conditions, such as coughs that won’t go away or unexplained symptoms. Don’t go to a hospital or an after-hours clinic for this type of concern. Overcrowding of those clinics can delay treatment for people with urgent health problems.
Your local pharmacy can also give you advice and treatment for many minor conditions, including colds and flu.
For non-urgent care outside of business hours
If you have a non-urgent concern outside of business hours, but are worried enough to want advice, or don’t know if your concern is urgent or not, you can still phone your GP. They are required to make sure there is someone to answer your call.
You can also phone the government’s free 24/7 health advice line, Healthline, on 0800 611 116. Your call will be answered by a registered nurse.
Or you can go to your nearest accident and medical (A&M) clinic. At an A&M clinic, you may qualify for low-cost or free care (eg, if you’ve had an accident).
For serious injuries or other emergencies
Go to the hospital emergency department or phone 111 for an ambulance. Treatment at the hospital is free. If you go in an ambulance, you’ll usually be charged for it, so if you need one often, it’s a good idea to get a St John subscription.
Emergencies include anything that is life threatening, such as difficulty breathing, chest pains or uncontrolled bleeding, or when you have severe pain or other trauma.
If your doctor has referred you to the hospital emergency department, it’s important that you follow their advice and go there to get treated.
Mental health services
If you’re concerned about your, or somebody else’s, mental wellbeing, there are many 24-hour phone numbers you can call for advice and support. Visit the Mental Health Foundation for a full list.
For non-urgent mental health concerns, talk to your GP first. They can refer you to mental health services or a counsellor in your area if needed.
Looking after your child’s health
Free Well Child services are available for all children. Plunket provides care for under 5-year-olds to ensure their health and wellbeing. Plunket gives support and advice to new parents and families. Other services provide free dental care, immunisations, hearing and eyesight checks. Talk with your GP if you need to know more.
Free maternal healthcare is available to all New Zealand women. If you’re pregnant, see your GP, who will give you a list of lead maternity carers. You’ll usually be cared for by a midwife during your pregnancy, but if you need or want specialist care, your GP or midwife will organise it for you.
Care for the elderly
Many health providers and companies offer services to help older people. Some are free, but many are private and you need to pay at least some of the cost. Seniorline is a good place for information, and your GP can also help.