If you’re sick and it’s not an emergency, you should visit a family doctor (or ‘general practitioner’ – GP).
Enrolling with a GP
GPs normally charge a higher fee, often called a casual rate, for patients that aren’t enrolled at their practice.
It’s free to enrol
It’s free to register or enrol with a GP – but they may charge a consultation fee each time you go to see them after that.
If you enrol with a GP, your care will be subsidised – so you’ll pay a reduced consultation fee.
Who can enrol?
GPs can only enrol people who are eligible for publicly funded health services. When you enrol, you may be asked to show proof of eligibility – such as your passport or birth certificate. You’ll be asked to sign an enrolment form.
Choosing your GP
To check where you’re currently enrolled, call the Ministry of Health 0800 458 448.
In New Zealand, you can choose the doctor or medical centre that you visit.
- For a list of GPs and their fees, check the website of your local district health board (DHB) and/or primary health organisation (PHO).
- The New Zealand Medical Council has a register of practising GPs and advice on choosing a doctor.
A GP may ‘close their books’ if they can’t safely take on any more patients. If this happens, the GP should refer you to their PHO for help with finding a GP. The PHO may put you on a waiting list and arrange for you to get care in the meantime.
Your medical record
Your medical record is kept with the GP you’re enrolled with, but any health professional involved in your care can look at your record. You can ask to look at your record at any time.
The Privacy Commissioner website has advice on health privacy.
What you’ll pay
Doctors’ practices and medical centres are privately owned and set their own fees.
The cost of a visit will be lower if you’re enrolled with the GP, because the government subsidises the fee.
Fees for children under 6 are usually lower.
Some general practices join a ‘low cost access’ programme run by their primary health organisation. This means they get extra government funding to keep their fees at low levels.
Community Services Cards and High Use Health Cards
If you're visiting a medical centre where you’re not enrolled, you’ll pay less if you have a Community Services Card or High Use Health Card. (If you are enrolled at the centre, your fee will already be lower because it is subsidised by the government.)
Check the Ministry of Social Development website or call 0800 559 009 to see if you’re eligible for a Community Services Card.
After-hours care usually costs more.
If you have a long-term health condition or a terminal illness, you may be eligible for Care Plus.
GPs get extra government funding for Care Plus patients, so can provide additional care at no further cost to the patient.
Immunisation is free for all children even if they aren’t usually eligible for publicly funded health services.
GPs can charge a fee for services provided outside of a consultation, such as a repeat prescription or referral letter to a specialist.
Mothers of babies born in New Zealand are entitled to free essential care during and after their pregnancy.
If you're seeing your GP about an injury caused by an accident, you’ll be charged a lower fee if it's covered by ACC.
Your doctor may refer you to a hospital or specialist doctor for further assessment or diagnosis.
- Specialist care is free through the public health system, but you may go on a waiting list.
- If you want to get specialist advice quickly, you may wish to use a private hospital or specialist. You will have to pay a fee for this, unless you have private health insurance.
Call Healthline for free health advice from registered nurses, 24 hours a day. Phone 0800 611 116.
General practices are usually open business hours, Monday to Friday. Every GP is required to have arrangements for their patients to receive care outside these hours.
Check with your GP where you should go if you do need care outside working hours. (You might have to visit an after-hours medical centre or another GP.)
Changing your doctor
When you register or enrol with a new GP, you’ll be asked to sign a form so your records can be transferred from your old GP.
- A GP should not refuse to enrol new patients unless they already have too many patients.
- A GP can terminate your enrolment if there is an ‘irreparable breakdown’ in the relationship.