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Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says an incentive scheme designed to increase the number of health professionals working in communities and roles that have traditionally been difficult to staff is supporting the diversity of the health workforce.

“The Voluntary Bonding Scheme supports new graduates to work in specialty roles or communities that find it hard to attract health professionals.

“Through the 2017 cohort of the Voluntary Bonding Scheme we are seeing a better reflection of the make-up of our population supported to enter hard to fill roles in our health workforce.

“Maori accounted for over 20 per cent of registrations of new graduate doctors in the 2017 intake, up from 13 per cent in 2016. 12 per cent of registrations for new doctors were from Asian graduates, up from 8 per cent in 2016.

“Registrations for this scheme for nursing include 16.5 per cent Maori graduates, up from 15 per cent in 2016. Asian graduates accounted for 11.2 per cent and 8.7 per cent of the nursing registrations are from Pasifika.

“Evidence suggests that matching the demographic of the workforce to the population improves health outcomes and access to services.

“To date, approximately $34.8 million has been paid out to eligible participants to help ensure that our health workforce has access to some of the country's best graduates in the roles and areas where they are needed.”

As at 1 February this year, 4,228 people, including the new 2017 intake, have registered for the scheme since its introduction in 2009.

Those on the scheme receive three annual payments after a bonded period of three years, to help repay their student loan, or as top-up income.

This programme is supported by the extra $3.9 billion invested into the health sector by Budget 17, taking the health budget to a record $16.8 billion.

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