Primary health care

Primary health care relates to the professional health care provided in the community, usually from a general practitioner (GP), practice nurse, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or other health professional working within a general practice.

Primary health care covers a broad range of health services, including diagnosis and treatment, health education, counselling, disease prevention and screening.

A strong primary health care system is central to improving the health of all New Zealanders and reducing health inequalities between different groups. The launch of the Primary Health Care Strategy in 2001, followed by the establishment of primary health organisations (PHOs), set the direction and vision for primary health care services in New Zealand.

In 2016 the Ministry updated the New Zealand Health Strategy which recognises the need for change and the challenges faced by the health system. Central to the strategy is the idea of ‘All New Zealanders living well, staying well and getting well’. This highlights the need for:

  • a shift from treatment to prevention, improving people’s lives and supporting greater financial sustainability
  • overcoming the inequities in the health system so that it works for every New Zealander
  • a deep understanding of what it’s like to use the health system – so that services are customer-friendly and barriers to equity can be removed
  • the Ministry, health providers, other Government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and communities working better together, because lots of factors affect a person’s health and wellbeing.

In 2018 the Government announced its commitment to improving access to primary health care along with initiatives to reduce the cost of visiting a general practice for some people including under-14s and Community Services Card holders. If you are looking for information about going to see a GP, or how much you might need to pay when you go to your general practice or to the pharmacy go to Subsidies and services.

Clinical guidelines

Clinical guidelines provide information and guidelines to all clinicians. Many of the guidelines relate to primary health care. Find our guidelines in the Publications section.

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