New Zealand will receive 40 cancer nurse coordinators as part of the government’s plans to spend $101 million on improving frontline health services over the next four years.
Health Minister Tony Ryall announced $33 million in funds, earmarked in the 2012 budget, will build on the work of successful programs such as the lung cancer clinical nurse specialists at Canterbury District Health Board.
Mr Ryall said the group of dedicated cancer nurse coordinators will provide a direct and single point of contact for patients and their families.
“Research shows some cancer patients can come into contact with up to 28 doctors and even more nurses throughout their treatment,” he said.
The government is also working to reduce patients’ waiting times for treatment, with plans for departments
to coordinate appointments on just one day to prevent patients having to visit hospital on multiple days for different tests.
The nation’s peak nursing body, which represents 46,000 nurses, has welcomed the funds to bolster cancer care but criticised plans to increase the cost of prescriptions in a move designed to raise $60 million.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said the government was giving with one hand and taking with the other.
“We are pleased to see improvements to cancer care. Forty extra nurses will make a huge difference to the experiences of those suffering from cancer,” she said.
“It is the increase in the cost of prescriptions that will pay for these services.
“Increased prescription costs mean that many low income New Zealanders with high health needs will no longer be able to afford the medication they need.
“NZNO members working in palliative care already tell us they visit patients every day who have piles of unfilled prescriptions because they can’t afford to pay for them.”
The budget also includes $48 million for 4000 more elective operations each year, $16 million in IT systems for faster access to diagnostic tests and $4 million for a national register of patients treated for heart conditions.