Workforce Regulatory Reforms

The Workforce Regulatory Reform Programme

While our current system performs well for some, it doesn’t perform equally well for all people and we see persistent inequities in health outcomes – especially for Māori, Pacific and disabled peoples.

As the wider health reform programme progresses, our approach to the regulation of the health and disability workforce and how the Ministry of Health exercises stewardship of the regulatory system must remain in step with the overall direction of our future health system. It will also need to reflect the roles of new entities in our future health system, particularly Health NZ and the Māori Health Authority.

To support the wider system shifts the health reforms are intended to achieve, we need a principle-based regulatory framework for our health workforce that supports:

  • prioritisation of public health and safety
  • equitable health outcomes across the health and disability sector
  • a more diverse and agile workforce that is able to flexibly respond to the growing health needs of all New Zealanders
  • an integrated set of comprehensive population and workforce data to ensure decisions are made based on the best available information.

Our population and its health needs are changing – we need greater flexibility and more integrated data across the system, and enable a whole-system integrated approach that takes account of what the health system needs. 

A key issue our future health system must address is the current disparity in health outcomes across different population groups – especially for Māori, Pacific and disabled peoples. Our regulatory framework was not designed to specifically address equity challenges. This will need to change in our future health system.

Our vision

Together, we want to build a cohesive regulatory framework for the health and disability workforce that protects the health and safety of the public, is responsive to wider system needs, supports the development of the health workforce, and supports the government’s stewardship role now and for the future.

We aim to achieve this vision by creating workforce regulations that:

  • embed the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and enables and promotes equity in health outcomes.
  • reflect the principles of ‘right touch’ regulation (accountability, transparency, efficiency, collaboration, clarity, and consistency).
  • ensure that regulatory settings are established and applied in the public’s interest.
  • recognise the impact of regulatory settings on system performance, including workforce supply, and offers the levers to maintain public safety.
  • ensure public trust and confidence in the clinical, cultural, and ethical competence of the workforce and in the regulatory framework more broadly.
  • support and contributes to the development of a sustainable workforce that meets the needs of the New Zealand population.
  • facilitate strategic workforce planning by ensuring the collection and sharing of meaningful consistent workforce data.
  • are safe and fit for purpose now and well into the future.

Next steps and timeframes

We are currently in Phase 1 of this programme, and are engaging with stakeholders across the regulated and unregulated health workforces to gather their experiences and perspectives, to test our thinking and future strategic direction, and seize any opportunities to refine and improve the way things work today.

There are three phases to this work:

  • Phase 1 – Design and development with the sector (October 2021 – April 2022). Over the coming months we will work with key stakeholders – including eventually moving to public engagement – to identify areas where our regulatory settings could be strengthened, and make progress in designing an improved regulatory framework for our health workforce.
  • Phase 2 – Legislative development (April 2022 – October 2022). Following engagement and policy design, we will work to prepare legislation to effect any changes to regulatory settings as agreed with the Minister of Health and Cabinet.
  • Phase 3 – Legislating (November 2022 – August 2023). From November 2022, the Minister of Health will be placed to introduce any Bill which might result from this process (subject to Cabinet approval), on the basis that it could take effect from late 2023.

The health reforms are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be part of reshaping and resetting theentire health system to ensure it delivers better health outcomes for all people in our country.

How we support, develop, grow, and regulate our workforce is potentially the single most important factor in determining the extent to which the current reforms create genuine change and shift the current health outcome inequities. We will continue to update you on this work as it progresses.

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