Elective services

Elective Services, often known simply as ‘Electives’, are medical or surgical services for people who do not need to be treated right away.

This section gives you a brief overview of how the Electives system works, what you can expect if you need elective care from a public hospital and your rights and obligations.

Brief overview

Here is a brief description of how the Electives system works.

  1. Your GP (or primary care provider) will advise whether to refer you to a district health board (DHB) hospital to be assessed by a specialist. This is known as your First Specialist Assessment (or FSA). If your referral is accepted, DHBs should provide your FSA within 4 months.
  2. The specialist will recommend what treatment you need, and whether this should be provided by your DHB, or by your GP (or primary care provider), perhaps with support from a specialist.
  3. If you require treatment by your DHB, the specialist will determine a priority score for you, depending on your need and how much you will benefit from treatment compared to other people. Your DHB should make treatment available in priority order, given available resources.
  4. If it is decided you meet the priority required for treatment, you should receive it within 4 months.

What can I expect?

If you need Elective care from a public hospital you can expect:

  • clarity – you will receive information about assessment and treatment options and whether or not they will be available to you
  • timeliness – you will know in 15 calendar days or less whether you will receive assessment or treatment. If assessment or treatment is offered to you, you should receive it within 4 months
  • fairness – your level of need will be assessed compared to other people.

The traditional admission to hospital for one or more nights is changing, which means more patients can now be treated. Modern, safe treatment practices mean some people’s needs may now be met by day-surgery, less invasive surgery, or by non-surgical techniques.

For a more detailed explanation about the Electives programme, go to About the electives programme.

What are my rights?

You have certain rights and obligations. Your rights include a right to give informed consent to your treatment, to receive fair access to services, and to have a review or second opinion given on your condition and priority if you wish.

However you also have certain obligations, particularly around your attendance for treatment. Valuable time and resources are wasted when DHBs can’t contact patients, or when patients don’t show up. Hospitals can’t always organise replacements at short notice so the treatment slot is not used. This contributes significantly to waiting times.

For a more about your rights and obligations, go to Questions and answers – elective services.

What is being done to better support patients?

The multi-phase National Patient Flow programme by the Ministry of Health, is underway, to capture information about the patient journey through secondary care services. When in full operation, information held in the National Patient Flow Collection will benefit patients through a better understanding of demand for services, our capacity to meet that, and how access varies. It will improve knowledge of the complexities of the patient journey, so we can better link the services they need, and improve resources if there are constraints. Read more about National Patient Flow.

District health boards have been working on ways to support as many people as they can within their finite resources. This is being done through:

  • increasing the number of first specialist assessments and elective treatment that is provided
  • providing elective care within expected timeframes
  • improving equity (or ‘fairness’) of access – through consistent implementation of clinical prioritisation tools
  • working closely with primary care and community providers to provide specialist level advice and guidance without requiring a patient to be referred for services
  • improving referral processes to minimise any delays
  • developing care services in the community, that help to prevent conditions developing, or to improve how a condition is managed, without need for hospital care
  • supporting people with non-surgical treatment alternatives.

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