Visiting a doctor or nurse

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

Enrolling with a general practice

Lower cost general practice visits – most general practices offer zero fee visits for children aged 13 and under.

It’s free to enrol

It’s free to enrol with a general practice – but they may charge a consultation fee each time you go to see them after that.

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

If you enrol with a general practice, your care will be subsidised – so you’ll pay a reduced consultation fee.

Who can enrol?

General practices can only enrol people who are eligible for publicly funded primary 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 general practice

In New Zealand, you can choose the general practice that you visit.

A general practice may ‘close its books’ if it can’t safely take on any more patients. If this happens, the practice should refer you to their PHO for help with finding another practice. 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 general practice 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

General practices are private businesses and set their own fees for consultations and other health services.  While the fees charged must be within a certain threshold agreed to by district health boards (DHBs) and PHOs, the level of co-payment is determined by the practices.

The cost of a visit will be lower if you’re enrolled with the practice, because the Government subsidises the fee for enrolled patients.

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 for all enrolled patients. Most general practices offer zero fee visits for children aged 13 and under, and most non-VLCA practices offer cheaper visits for Community Services Card holders and their dependants.

Zero fees for children aged 13 and under

All children under 13 are eligible for free general practice visits, both during the day and after-hours. Not all general practices provide free visits, so check with your general practice first.

For more information visit Zero fees for under-14s

Community Services Cards

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

Community Services Card holders also get cheaper visits at the general practice they’re enrolled with. This also applies to injury-related visits at most practices, which are covered by ACC.

More information is available on the Work and Income website or phone 0800 559 009 to see if you’re eligible for a Community Services Card.

Care Plus

If you have a long-term health condition or a terminal illness, you may be eligible for Care Plus.

General practices get extra Government funding for Care Plus patients, so the practice 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.

General practices 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.

Accidents

If you're seeing your general practice 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.

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 practice is required to have arrangements for their patients to receive care outside these hours.

Check with your practice where you should go if you do need care outside working hours. (You might have to visit an after-hours accident and medical clinic or another practice.)

Changing your general practice

When you enrol with a new general practice, you’ll be asked to sign a form so your records can be transferred from your old practice.

  • A practice should not refuse to enrol new patients unless they already have too many patients.
  • A practice 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 general practice, contact the Health and Disability Commissioner or the New Zealand Medical Council.


Find out more from the Ministry

In this section

  • Most children aged 13 and under who are enrolled with a general practice will not be charged a fee for a standard visit with a doctor or nurse Read more
Back to top