Visiting a doctor

If you’re sick and it’s not an emergency, you should visit a family doctor (or ‘general practitioner’ – GP).

Enrolling with a GP

Zero fees for under-13s – most general practices offer free visits to under-13s.
From December 2018, we expect most general practices will extend zero fees to 13-year-olds.

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.

GPs normally charge a higher fee, often called a casual rate, for patients that aren’t enrolled at their practice.

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

In New Zealand, you can choose the doctor or medical centre that you visit.

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.

Some general practices join a Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) programme run by their primary health organisation (PHO). This means they get extra government funding to keep their fees at low levels.

Zero fees for under-13s

All children under 13 are eligible for free general practice visits, both during the day and after-hours. This is being extended to 13-year-olds as well from December 2018. Not all general practices may provide free visits, so check with your general practice first.

Community Services Cards and High Use Health Cards

If you're visiting a general practice where you’re not enrolled, you’ll pay less if you have a Community Services Card or High Use Health Card.

From December 2018, Community Services Card holders will also get cheaper visits at the general practice they’re enrolled with (unless it is a Very Low Cost Access practice, when they’ll already be getting cheaper visits). This doesn’t include injury-related visits, which are covered by ACC.

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

After-hours care usually costs more.

Care Plus

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.

Other fees

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.

Maternity care

Mothers of babies born in New Zealand are entitled to free essential care during and after their pregnancy. Go to Services and support during pregnancy to find out more.


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.

Specialist care

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.

After-hours care

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.

If you wish to make a complaint about the care you get from your GP, contact the Health and Disability Commissioner or the New Zealand Medical Council.

Find out more from the Ministry

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