What is primary care?
Services you would encounter in primary care include contact with your family doctor or GP, practice nurse, pharmacist, accident and medical clinic, midwife, Plunket nurse, physiotherapist or podiatrist. Many of these services are funded by the government (as hospitals are funded), but the funding doesn’t always meet all the cost of providing the service by these private businesses. This means you may be charged what’s called a co-payment or fee for some of these services.
How is primary care funded?
Funding for primary care comes from district health boards and from there to primary health organisations (PHOs). PHOs are generally charitable trusts and exist in a single area, eg, central Auckland. For GP clinics to access the Government funding, and therefore pass the discount to you, they must become a member of a PHO.
The amount of funding a PHO and its member GP clinics receive is based on how many patients and the health needs of the people registered. For example, more funding is provided for people living in low socio-economic areas and those with chronic illness like diabetes, asthma or heart disease.
GP visits and prescriptions are free for most children aged 13 and under. It’s also important to realise that to get a free visit, children must be New Zealand citizens and enrolled or registered with a doctor. If you aren’t sure whether your children are enrolled, check with your doctor. It is free to enrol.
Free and subsidised care is only available to New Zealand residents, with some exceptions for visitors from countries like the UK and Australia. (external link)
Visits to the GP cost less if you register with them and continue to visit the same practice each time you need to see the doctor or practice nurse. If you register 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.
You can also visit a pharmacy for free health advice and to purchase medicines without prescription, however these medications won’t be subsidised.
Can I enrol with accident and medical, or after-hours clinic?
It depends on the clinic. Some GP clinics that operate during normal business hours, also offer an after-hours service at the same premises. Other clinics exist only to provide urgent or after-hours care. Generally, clinics that ONLY offer after-hours services, eg, they are open 24-hours or until 10pm, you cannot enrol with. To be sure, always check with the clinic.
Accidents, ACC & primary care
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 range of medical costs associated with accidents, including GP visits, treatment from various other health professionals such as a physiotherapist, surgery, x-rays and prescriptions.
- About primary health organisations, Ministry of Health (external link) – here you’ll find more about enrolling with a PHO and an up to date list of PHO contact details.
- Primary healthcare subsidies and services, Ministry of Health (external link)
There are four PHOs that have GP clinics located in Auckland District Health Boards’s area, visit their websites for their contact details, fees and opening hours:
- Auckland PHO (external link)
- Alliance Health Plus (external link)
- ProCare (external link)
- National Hauora Coalition (external link)