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The Government’s cancellation of the national health targets is a concerning step that will cost lives, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“These targets drove improvement in the areas that New Zealanders care about. Significant increases in the number of elective surgeries and immunisations, as well as faster cancer treatment and improved children’s health were all partially driven by these targets and the health sector’s commitment to them.

“Research shows our Shorter Stays in ED target which aimed to have 95 per cent of patients admitted, discharged or transferred from EDs around the country within six hours resulted in a 57 per cent reduction in the death rate of ED patients - saving around 700 lives a year.

“This target was put in place in 2009 after emergency physicians highlighted that the overcrowded hospital wards and EDs under Labour were costing lives.

“You can’t prove or improve what you don’t measure. Health Minister David Clark’s claim that more surgeries will be performed is easy to make when there will be no public measure of any increase or decrease in elective surgeries.

“The Government has also stopped reporting on the National Patient Flow project which has been underway since July 2014 and aimed to improve DHBs referral systems, administration processes, and communications with patients to better understand patient outcomes and unmet need.

“These targets not only let us see exactly the kind of difference the money we invested was making for real people, they also gave public servants a clear focus on what they needed to do to improve lives.

“The previous Labour Government poured money into the health system with minimal targeting and in some areas it went backwards. More than 35,000 people were culled from elective surgery waiting lists and elective surgery numbers actually dropped, despite funding increases.

“Health isn’t the only area that Labour has abolished targets in. They have also abandoned the whole of government Better Public Services targets. This Government is trying to avoid accountability by refusing to publish important information about the delivery of public services.

“The Government’s decision to abolish the health targets will cost lives if the focus and public scrutiny on better, faster healthcare in specific areas is lessened.”

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