Delivering high quality and accessible health services is a priority for the National-led Government. We have been worked hard to achieve this goal, and I’m proud to say we are investing more than ever before into health and getting better results.
Last week we released new data which shows more families are getting the care they need for their children as a result of our free GP visits for under 13s. More than 99 per cent of general practices signing up to the scheme. The data shows that in the 12 months since the policy was introduced, 190,807 more children have visited their GP – 16.6 per cent more compared to the same time last year.
There has been an encouraging decrease of 1,600 presentations to hospital emergency departments. We have also seen an increase in access to medicines, with the number of prescriptions dispensed increased, showing that the removal of costs has improved access to medicines. As a result of this $90 million initiative, more than 780,000 children under 13 are benefiting from free GP visits and free prescriptions. Another important part of our healthcare strategy is ensuring we can meet the needs of our senior citizens. As New Zealanders live longer, healthier lives, access to elective surgery becomes increasingly important.
Under this Government, the number of patients receiving elective surgery has increased by 45 per cent. Currently District Health Board’s spend more than $4.5 billion on providing health and disability services to people aged 65 years and older. Based on the forecast growth of this age group, this spend is expected to rise to 50 per cent of DHB expenditure by 2025/26. Another key focus area for the Government is mental health.
One in five New Zealanders will experience a mental health issue during their lifetime, therefore its important people can access the appropriate services that they need. That’s why we’ve increased mental health and addiction services funding to over $1.4 billion for 2015/16. The Government is spending more on health than ever before and funding the right programs to ensure we have a world-class health system that all New Zealanders can be proud of.