Health System In New Zealand
Health System In New Zealand
Find out about the publicly funded health and disability services available for tamariki and whānau in New Zealand.
Key points about the health system in Aotearoa
- in the early years you and your child will need lots of help and advice about sickness and keeping healthy
- it is very helpful to have a family doctor and practice nurse who get to know you and your child well
- know where to go for medical treatment
- if you're unsure, call Healthline on 0800 611 116
Where to go for healthcare in New Zealand
In an emergency
If it is an emergency, dial 111 within New Zealand (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries) and ask for urgent medical help.
If you're near the hospital and the situation is serious but not life threatening, you may choose to take your child in your car. Make sure you know where your hospital's emergency department is.
Hospital emergency services operate 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can take your child to the emergency department without a doctor's referral. You may have to wait for some hours as emergency departments see people with the most urgent needs first.
If it's not an emergency
If your child needs medical care but it is not an emergency, contact your family doctor to make an appointment.
If they need urgent care but it is not an emergency and your family doctor is not available, visit your local accident and medical clinic (A&M). If they cannot treat your child's illness or injury, they will refer them to your hospital's emergency department (ED) if they think your child needs urgent care.
Call Healthline if you're worried, unsure or want to ask a question.
If you need advice about a child who is unwell, call 0800 611 116 anytime.
For COVID-19 health advice call 0800 358 5453 anytime. For COVID-19 vaccination advice call 0800 29 29 26 (8am - 8pm 7 days a week).
Knowing when to seek help for your child
Sometimes families worry about missing a serious illness. Knowing your child and seeing a change in their behaviour could be the most important clue to how sick they are.
Watch this video from Te Whatu Ora - Waitematā about where to go for help in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Health services in New Zealand
It's free to enrol with a general practice. General practices can only enrol people who can access publicly funded primary health services. When you enrol, you may need to show proof of eligibility - such as your passport or birth certificate. You'll also need to sign an enrolment form.
Most general practices are part of Primary Health Organisations (PHOs).
After hours care
GPs are usually open business hours, Monday to Friday. Every practice needs to have arrangements for their patients to receive care outside these hours.
Check with your practice where to take your child if they need care outside working hours. (You might have to visit an after-hours accident and medical clinic or another practice.)
Your doctor may refer your child to a hospital or specialist doctor for further assessment or diagnosis.
Specialist care is free through the public health system, but your child may go on a waiting list.
If you don't want to wait in the public system, you may wish to use a private hospital or specialist to get advice sooner. You will have to pay a fee for this, unless you have private health insurance.
Mothers of babies born in New Zealand can get free essential care during and after their pregnancy.
Find out more about maternity care in New Zealand.
Well Child Tamariki Ora
Well Child Tamariki Ora services, such as Plunket, support parents and their tamariki up to the age of 5. This is a free service for all children living in New Zealand.
The B4 School Check is a free health and development check for your 4-year-old. It's the final Well Child Tamariki Ora check.
The National Immunisation Schedule is the series of immunisations that are free for babies, children and teens (and adults). The Schedule lists the immunisations and the age your child can have them.
It is important your child has their full course for continuing strong protection. Children need immunisations on time as delaying them leaves them at unnecessary risk of infection.
There is a range of disability support in New Zealand.
Mental health services
Basic dental care is free in New Zealand for children from birth until they turn 18. Enrol your child as early as possible and keep taking them for regular dental check-ups.
Watch this video from Te Whatu Ora - Waitematā about health services for children in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Cost of healthcare in New Zealand
Children aged 13 and under won't be charged:
- a fee for visits at most general practices
- a fee for after-hours services at participating clinics and pharmacies
- the regular $5 prescription fee
There is usually a fee for casual patients, who aren't enrolled with a general practice.
Injuries are usually covered by ACC. There may be a cost to use some services at accident and medical clinics.
There is no cost to use a public hospital if your child is eligible. There may be a cost to some ambulance services in New Zealand.
Other useful information
New Zealand National Poisons Centre can answer questions about poisons, 24 hours a day. Phone 0800 764 766.
If you need language support, you can ask for an interpreter when you visit some health services.
Complaints about services
When you use a health or disability service, you have rights. All people in New Zealand have these rights. If you are not happy with a health and disability service you receive, you have the right to complain.
This page last reviewed 09 September 2022.
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