Transforming support for general practice to improve equity

Tuesday 10 May 2022


There is nothing more important than our health and wellbeing. For the benefit of our region, equity for all is what many of us are working so hard to achieve.

Health equity is often talked about, but to actually achieve it we need to make bold changes.

Equity is central to the Mahitahi Hauora kaupapa. It’s about getting the same outcomes for everyone. In the words of the Ministry of Health: ‘In Aotearoa New Zealand, people have differences in health that are not only avoidable but unfair and unjust. Equity recognises different people with different levels of advantage require different approaches and resources to get equitable health outcomes.’

At Mahitahi Hauora – the primary health organisation based in Tai Tokerau Northland – we are transforming the way we support general practices (GPs) to help improve many people’s ability to access the services they need.

We are turning the traditional model on its head by ending ‘top-slicing’ of the Government funding provided, a common practice where a percentage of that funding is taken out to cover organisational costs.

Top-slicing means that GPs do not receive all the funding available and are offered, via their primary health organisation, a range of health and wellbeing services – even if they do not use them. So, Mahitahi Hauora is changing this so that our member GPs receive all the funding available. Then, under our new and simplified contract titled the Equity for Whanau Agreement, we will offer a selection of health and wellbeing services from which GPs can choose to purchase, if any, to best suit their businesses and to serve their population of enrolled patients. The charges will be transparent and reflect the actual costs of providing those services.

In total, we will give our member GPs an extra $2.3 million a year from 1 July 2022, money that can be used to provide focussed services that will be of greatest value for their patients and their family/whānau.

This new approach to funding is an important part of our commitment to better support our member GPs to improve health equity and outcomes for their enrolled patients and local populations, some being priority and vulnerable groups, because it enables them to focus resources and services to achieve the most positive impact.

It will be a win, win – for GPs, their patients and their family/whanau, and our collective efforts to achieve health equity.

Highlighted in the name, the Equity for Whānau Agreement prioritises achieving equity for patients. It is designed to enable everyone to access and experience clinical services in a timely manner and that meets their needs and aspirations within a culturally responsive environment. It’s also about promoting preventative care and healthy lifestyles to reduce the inequitable burden of ill-health and chronic disease.

This is what we at Mahitahi Hauora are striving to achieve: a primary health care system that sustains equitable, self-determined wellbeing, and ensures every person in Tai Tokerau Northland can live a long healthy life.

- Jensen Webber, CEO, Mahitahi Hauora PHO