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Put Parkinson's on the agenda this election

We have launched an election awareness campaign because we want to help you make your vote count on 23 September.

We know you face a number of challenges, but we think protecting Parkinson’s New Zealand’s services, making sure neurological conditions are a health strategy priority and improving access to health services for people with Parkinson’s are some of the key issues.

We sent out questions to political parties on how they might improve life for you in these areas. We received responses from Labour, the Green Party, New Zealand First and the Māori Party and we posted their responses in the June issue of our quarterly magazine, The Parkinsonian.

National, Act and United Future did not provide answers. Then you got involved. Thanks to your phone calls, emails and personal visits to MP's offices, the National party has submitted statements on their policies.  We have posted the answers from the political parties here on our website to help you make informed decisions on 23 September.

Parkinson’s New Zealand: How will you recognise the economic and social impact our services have and work with us to ensure sustainability?  

National:  The Government is strongly focused on building workforce capability to support an ageing population with long-term conditions and higher rates of co-morbidities to remain living at home and in the community. Of the required workforces, the home and community workforce is essential to meeting the growing demand for services. However, this workforce is fragile, with jobs historically characterised by low pay and high staff turnover.

As part of this commitment, the Government has recently announced the Pay Equity settlement. Under that settlement, from July 1 the workforce, who are mostly on or around minimum wage, will receive a pay rise between 15 and 50 per cent for the 55,000 in the care and support workforce, depending on their qualifications and/or experience. This represents an investment of more than $2 billion in this workforce over the next five years.

Labour:  As part of our plan to improve the treatment of Parkinson’s in New Zealand, we will restore the lost funding in health. Infometrics research has shown that over the last six years a $1.7 billion hole has developed in health funding. A Labour led Government will restore this funding in stages when it is elected. We will make sure that treatments for Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions will be properly funded. We will also make sure that Pharmac is better resourced to be able to invest in the latest drugs for Parkinson’s.  

Greens:  Our health system has been underfunded by $1.7 billion since National came to power. It is inevitable that the cuts made will affect the preventative services that are offered as health professionals are forced to choose only the most urgent cases to prioritise. The Green Party is committed to free healthcare provided by a well-funded public health system, delivering high quality and safe care, which everyone can access in a timely way. We would invest in preventative measures that could help with further cost escalations. This would ensure that people would enjoy a higher standard of health.   

NZ First:  New Zealand First values the work that Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) do to ensure that New Zealanders get the best healthcare that they need. However, the Government’s cost cutting has pushed many NGOs to breaking point, leaving staff and patients at risk. New Zealand First recognises the valuable contribution of NGOs, such as Parkinson’s New Zealand, to our healthcare sector and would look to ensure interoperability and a focus on patient needs.  

Māori Party:  The Māori Party believes it is timely to initiate a review of the funding model which sees DHBs act as both funder and provider. The proposed result of the review will see a significant shift in policy, planning, service design and delivery for NGOs and other organisations struggling to meet the demands on their services.  This review may also result in a greater share of resources being placed with organisations such as Parkinson’s New Zealand, and ultimately, improved health outcomes for whanau who are impacted by Parkinson’s.  

Parkinson’s New Zealand: What is your party’s commitment to the DIAS (Disability Information Advisory Service) and other contracts with organisations like ours, and to providing independent information and advice to people living with Parkinson’s, their families, caregivers and the general public? 

National: The Ministry of Health contracts with DIAS to provide independent information, advise, and/or field support to disabled people, their families, whanau, caregivers, providers and general public. Four of these are contracts are with Parkinson’s organisations.

A DIAS service also provides information on both Ministry and non-Ministry funded disability 

The Government’s current Disability Support Services Strategic Plan 2014-18 recognises that the contribution of DIAS is important for improving outcomes for disabled people. Action 1.1.3b is ‘to improve the quality and availability of information, including on how to access support services’ – this is a core function of DIAS.

Labour: We know New Zealand depends on the goodwill, understanding and knowledge of organisations like Parkinson’s New Zealand and we recognise the importance of Government support, no matter how modest.  

The delivery of health policy in New Zealand, whether it’s the treatment of Parkinson’s or elective surgery, depends on a high functioning DHB sector. We intend to relieve the financial stress on New Zealand’s DHBs which are facing a rapid deterioration in their finances. They have declined from last year’s deficit of $54 million to a predicted $85 million deficit in the coming financial year.  

Greens:  Independent information and advice can be so treasured by families and patients who need help navigating the condition itself as well as the services available. The Green Party appreciates the important work that is done with people to help them and would work to ensure that the services are supported better.  

NZ First: New Zealand First supports the DIAS. New Zealand First recognises the right of every New Zealander to equality of opportunity. We would ensure that all agencies delivering services to people with disabilities meet standards and demonstrate a constructive relationship with their client group.  

Māori Party: The Māori Party is committed to ensuring timely access to appropriate information, advice and support for people living with Parkinson’s, their whanau, caregivers and the general public. Sufficient funding for services that specialise in quality medical care and support for those also affected is important.  

Parkinson’s New Zealand: Will you make neurological conditions a health strategy priority?  If not would you please provide your reason? 

National: Yes. New Zealand’s disease management focus is on the specific conditions that cause of health loss. Our health data and evidence clearly shows that certain neurological disorders like stroke and dementia need to be at the top of our disease management priorities because these particular conditions are currently the leading causes of health loss.

Both the New Zealand Health Strategy and Health Ageing Strategy 2016 give priority to dealing with long-term conditions like Parkinson’s as a particular challenge with an ageing population, recognising that particular neurological conditions such as stroke and dementia are high disease management priorities. 

Labour: Neurological treatment will be a health priority along with electives, mental health and other key health issues. With over 10,000 New Zealanders affected by Parkinson's this has to be a focus for us. 

Greens: The Green Party would encourage the health strategy to engage with all New Zealanders to ensure that optimal outcomes for the most New Zealanders are achieved. 

NZ First: Yes. 

Māori Party: Yes, the Maori Party believes that neurological conditions ought to be a health priority, particularly given the greater prevalence of such conditions in our ageing population. 

Parkinson’s New Zealand: Will you create a neurological desk at the Ministry of Health? 

National: The Ministry has medical, nursing and other specialist advisors who are linked to clinical, community and research experts around the country on the wide range of conditions that advice is sought on.

Labour: Yes. 

Greens: We would explore the possibility of having greater specialist knowledge within the Ministry of Health. With the current demographics of an ageing population, it is important that there is enough attention and resources going into neurological conditions. 

NZ First: To completely answer this more research would need to be done to establish the need and funding available. 

Māori Party: No, but the Māori Party supports greater coordination of resources and support services that ensure adequate information, advice and treatment options for those living with Parkinson's.  

Parkinson’s New Zealand: People with Parkinson's face a number of barriers to integrated, long-term care. This includes the ability to access services, good information and advice. Can you tell us about your policies to increase people’s access to health care services?  

National: One of our top health priorities is to deliver better and quicker access to important health services. The extra $888 million being invested into health services for 2017/18 is the biggest increase in eleven years. This takes health investment to a record $16.77 billion in 2017/18, an increase of around $5 billion across our nine Budgets.

The health sector is working to reduce barriers and improve access to primary care services through a range of initiatives including reducing cost barriers such as the Very Low Cost Access Scheme, the High Health User Card, and the Prescription Subsidy Scheme for adults and families. 

Another example of improving access is through patient portal technology where patients can access their health information and interact with their general practice team. This increases patient’s ability to manage their own healthcare. In January 2017, over 445 GP practices were offering patient portals to around 300,000 New Zealanders.  

Labour: Funding and cost has been identified as a key factor is accessing primary and secondary health care services. Do not underestimate the benefit that will accrue to New Zealanders by Labour's pledge to restore the $1.7 billion the Government has stripped from the sector over the past six years. 

Greens:  The Green Party wants a high-quality health system that gives everyone a good life and a fair future. We believe in promoting good health and improving quality of life. We are committed to a New Zealand in which all people can actively participate in their communities and their health care, are valued for their abilities and gifts, and lead rich and satisfying lives. We are committed to a public healthcare system that provides the same access and level of care regardless of wealth or income. People should be able to access support and services according to need.  

NZ First: A properly funded and resourced public health service will not only provide better for our country, but save money in the long run.  

New Zealand First does not want to undertake whole-system reform and add to the ‘structural fatigue’ caused by successive government overhauls. Spending smarter must be a focus in the health sector. Not all issues can be solved by increased spending.  

 Our main health principles include:  

Relate health budget to population and forecasts of population growth.  

Adequate funding for and improved access to palliative care services.   

Adequately resource elective surgery and provide additional waiting times funding so as to firmly establish guaranteed maximum waiting times for a range of treatments.   

Introduce the SuperGold Card Health Check Bill, providing cardholders with three free doctor’s visits per year.  

Require parent category migrants to have health insurance on arrival and maintain it for 10 years, remove fringe benefit tax from health insurance, introduce the SuperGold health insurance premium rebate, and make health insurance a requirement for parent category visa applications.  

National voted down the SuperGold Health Check Bill and Affordable Healthcare Bills. Both would have alleviated pressure on the public healthcare system.  

Māori Party: We recognise that the health of whanau is affected by determinants beyond the health sector and that the health status of New Zealanders varies considerably by ethnicity, with Maori experiencing a greater burden of disease than non- Māori. As such, we believe a review of current funding priorities needs to be undertaken, to ensure a more equitable approach to access to appropriate health care. 

Parkinson’s New Zealand: We’re eager to hear your vision for Parkinson’s care in New Zealand.  

National:  We want to ensure more New Zealanders have greater access to integrated services which are delivered closer to home, away from hospitals. To do this we have developed the New Zealand Health Strategy and the Health Ageing Strategy which sets out the Government’s vision for health services. 

Labour: We want to make sure that Parkinson's is no longer a sometimes forgotten condition in New Zealand. To that end we want to see it recognised by the Ministry of Health both in terms of public awareness and funding. 

Greens: Labour and the Greens have been touring the country with Grey Power to hear from older people and aged care sector workers about issues in aged care, with a view to updating the 2010 report we did on this topic. We've heard that many issues about the quality of aged care still remain, including insufficient funding for and access to in-home care, and the training and remuneration of aged care workers. The equal pay settlement in the Terranova case will improve pay rates for workers and hopefully the quality of residential care. The Green Party is calling for improved oversight including an Aged Care commissioner, and better auditing and transparency in the sector. 

NZ First: All New Zealanders should have equal access to healthcare, including people with Parkinson's. People with Parkinson's and their families should have timely access to health care services and the ongoing support that they need. 

Māori Party: The Māori Party’s vision for Parkinson’s care in New Zealand is care which upholds the right of whanau to determine their own health priorities, and to participate fully in all decisions that affect them.

Parkinson’s New Zealand: What are the key barriers to achieving this vision? And what is the plan for overcoming these barriers? 

National: This includes preventing and managing long-term conditions and their impacts on people’s lives, providing personalised services that are well-integrated and flexible at different points of disease progression to respond to changing needs of older people. 

We also want to support people to self-manage their conditions closer to home. This could include the ability to manage their support funding as a personal budget, modelled on ‘Individualised Funding’, which gives people choice and control about how, from whom and when they can get support at home.

Labour: The only barrier to a new deal in health for the public is the failure to elect a Labour led government this September. 

Greens: The key barrier is underfunding. The Green Party has also been calling for an inclusive mental health inquiry to ensure that New Zealanders' mental health is being looked after. There are concerns that our overstretched health system is not able to give mental health the priority that it needs. This means that conditions are escalating and causing undue suffering. We would look into these issues thoroughly, and hear back on what needs to be done to ensure our health system continues to deliver for the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. 

NZ First: The barriers to achieving these services are an underfunded health system, which is struggling to cope with population grown, from massive immigration, and an ageing population. We hope that the policies in the previous answer will help to reduce the barriers to accessing health services for all New Zealanders. 

Paired with the evaluation and full implementation of the New Zealand Health Strategy and the Healthy Ageing Strategy, we believe New Zealand will be on the path to a fairer health system. While more can always be done, we believe spending smarter must be the present focus of the health care system to ensure timely access to quality services. 

Māori Party: For many whanau, and particularly whanau Māori, limited access to primary, secondary and tertiary prevention or intervention services often acts against their general health and wellness.  

The incidence and prevalence of Māori with Parkinson’s is expected to increase in the coming years, and this will place increased need for support or care for family members afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, particularly as their condition deteriorates.   

We believe that tāngata whenua are entitled to determine their own health priorities for development, and to participate in all decisions that affect them.  Māori Party policy prioritises and affirms whanau to take control of achieving their own outcomes. For those who are impacted by Parkinson’s, it can be as simple as having good information and the confidence to act on it for the wellbeing of your family. It can also be as simple as upholding values and principles of the person’s cultural beliefs.  

To give appropriate effect to our vision for Parkinson’s care, the Māori Party believes there needs to be greater investment in whanau-based and home-based culturally appropriate care options to enable people burdened with Parkinson’s to choose to remain in their homes, with access to appropriate respite care.  

The Māori Party will therefore design arrangements for the timely access to high quality and appropriate health care, irrespective of the ability to pay, for organisations such as Parkinson's New Zealand. 

Get involved 

There are many issues such as housing affordability and mental health which are going to potentially take up a lot of election debate space, but we must all keep the pressure up. Parkinson’s care in New Zealand is very important and it’s about time this was reflected in political debate. This general election, make sure Parkinson's is a health strategy priority and people's access to Parkinson's care is protected. Find out how to put Parkinson's on the agenda below. 

Enrol to vote. To make it as easy as possible to vote make sure you are correctly enrolled now. 

Email your local MP and ask if they will take action to make neurological conditions a health strategy priority. We recommend everyone in the Parkinson's community should meet with, ring or write to their MP. You can even ring one of the offices of the different political spokespeople above and voice your concerns about neurological conditions getting sufficient air time.  

Attend local meetings and ask candidates about our key issues below. You can let us know their responses by emailing info@parkinsons.org.nz

Whether you email your local candidate, enrol to vote or attend a local meeting, you're helping us to put Parkinson's on the agenda this election. We must act now. With your help, we can identify who to approach in the new Parliament to support our work. 

Our key issues 

Protect our services and work with us to ensure sustainability 

Parkinson's New Zealand employs health professionals who provide home visits and prepare individualised assessments and care plans for clients and their carers, run support groups and offer neuroprotective exercise programmes and education and information. We also train health professionals and the non-regulated health care workforce. Every day our staff is called on for information and support by DHBs. This work contributes to fewer hospital admissions and shorter stay times. Yet, our Parkinson's Community Educators are working as the only professional members of multi-disciplinary health teams whose salaries have to be paid entirely through fundraising. Their work saves New Zealand taxpayers an enormous amount of money but we only have a small DIAS contract which cannot be used for salaries. 

Make sure neurological conditions are a health strategy priority 

Collectively, neurological conditions are the biggest cause of disability among adults in New Zealand. Yet, this does not seem to be recognised by the current health strategy.  

You can download and read the strategy on the Ministry of Health's website at www.health.govt.nz

Improve access to health services for people with Parkinson's 

People with Parkinson's face a number of barriers to integrated, long-term care. This includes the ability to access services, good information and advice, leaving people without the support they need. 

After the election 

Once the election takes place on 23 September we'll get in touch with all MPs to welcome them to Parliament, brief them on key issues and urge them to help improve access to health services for people with Parkinson's. Contact your local branch or division and find out more about how to make our voice even stronger. All branch and division details are on our website or call 0800 473 4636 for more information.