Labour ‘promises’ cancer care bureaucracy

Labour have promised (with all the coalition negotiation caveats presumably) to set up  “a National Cancer Agency to make sure New Zealanders get consistent cancer care and end the anomalies in treatment”.

This will cost $20 million that won’t actually go into healthcare, it will try to make sure everyone everywhere in the country with cancer gets the same care.

All Kiwis to have same standard of cancer care

Labour is promising that all New Zealanders will have access to the same level of cancer care no matter where they live in the country, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.

“As someone who has survived cancer I know how this disease can devastate sufferers and their families. What really worries me is that cancer care can be a ‘post code’ lottery. People in Auckland for example have a lower rate of radiation treatment than people in Wellington.  People in Northland have a lower rate of radiation treatment than those in Canterbury. That’s not right. It’s not fair.

“National’s $2.3 billion of underfunding is denying Kiwis consistent care.

This repeated claim of a specific value of underfunding is deceitful.

It’s unacceptable that some cancer patients are waiting six months for CT scans.

Delays in diagnosis and treatment for cancer are a real issue. It can obviously get very emotional if you suspect or know you have cancer and it’s obvious that the sooner something is done about it the greater your chances of not dying.

Australians are more likely to survive than those diagnosed with cancer in New Zealand and Australians have better access to cancer drugs.

New treatments and new drugs tend to be very expensive.

“That’s why Labour will create a National Cancer Agency to make sure New Zealanders get consistent cancer care and end the anomalies in treatment.

“The agency will develop a national cancer plan so New Zealanders diagnosed with cancer will have the same access to high quality of cancer care wherever they live. We will develop targets to reduce death rates and we will end this ‘post code’ lottery by making sure there are standard treatments across all our District Health Boards.

“We’ll provide $10 million to establish the agency and another $10 million will be made available to get the work underway.

They don’t say whether that includes setting up a cancer clinic and CT scanner on the Chatham Islands.

I really don’t know what another layer of bureaucracy is going to do to speed up diagnosis and treatment. Wouldn’t the money be better spent on actual health care?

Why only cancer? There are many other illnesses that compete for health spending.

Should we have a National Heart Agency too?

If we get both what happens if they argue over lack of consistency between cancer care and heart disease care?

Our health bureaucracy has already been bloated and pruned, this seems to be an endless cycle.

We can’t all have personal doctors and an ambulance tracking us where ever we go.

Even rich people end up dying. Living has it’s risks.

Both my parents had cancer. My mother died of it in 2010, she mentioned symptoms in April, was diagnosed in May, received radiation therapy in July, which seemed quite prompt to me. But she died in October.

My father survived his cancer, for a while at least (he could have had cancer when he died but he chose not to have preventative chemotherapy with about a 50/50 chance of success and wasn’t checked for it after that).

“Labour’s fresh approach will make a real difference to the 23,000 Kiwis who are diagnosed with cancer every year who deserve consistent treatment no matter where they live,” says Andrew Little.

How can you ensure “consistent treatment” when there is such a wide range of cancers.

A National Bowel Screening Programme started to be rolled out this month. It offers bowel screening every two years to eligible people aged 60 to 74 years.

That age range targets the biggest risk group, but to be consistent should it be offered to people of any age?

How can treatment be consistent for someone with an early diagnosis of cancer compared to someone diagnosed with advanced cancer?

Types of cancers vary enormously, as does the way it can progress. How can consistency be measured let alone enforced?

Illness is very inconsistent.

It would be awful to think you may have cancer and know that it could be treated more promptly in a different region.

Ditto heart disease or multiple sclerosis or any number illnesses.

But more bureaucracy is not a fresh approach to anything but emotionally pandering to voters.

Leave a comment


  1. Pete, you said:

    “I really don’t know what another layer of bureaucracy is going to do to speed up diagnosis and treatment. Wouldn’t the money be better spent on actual health care?”

    This bureaucracy was what hampered NZ under the last Labour government. I personally experienced this because I accompanied an immediate family member to Melbourne for treatment they were unable to get here, in 2006. Tony Ryall turned health around completely and especially the immediacy of access to cancer treatment. The effect was life changing in many instances. How did he do this?

    “Cancer waiting times were abysmal under the last Government. Not on purpose, but because the health system had little clear focus. With something like 100 different health targets, it was a mess.

    Ryall has managed to focus the health system on a few achievable but very important targets such as faster treatment for cancer, more immunisations, quicker A& visits, more elective surgery, better quit smoking help, and more health checkups. And the great thing is that doctors and nurses and health managers have shown an ability to meet, and sometimes exceed, these targets when they are have a clear focus”

    • Was that done within the health system or by setting up an external agency?

      • Within the Health System. A system that actually delivers. It’s not prefect, but it is vastly improved since Labour was busy pushing paper.

        “The benefit of having a health system that focused on eight or so goals, rather than the 50+ there were under Labour, almost none of which were achieved.

        *ED treatment within six hours – 95%, up from 70% in 2008
        *123,585 elective surgical procedures in 9 months compared to 118,000 for all of 2008
        *67% get cancer treatment within 62 days of referral
        *100% get radiotherapy or chemotherapy within four weeks of decision to treat, up from *65% in 2008
        *93% of infants immunised compared to 76% in 2008
        *96% of hospitalised smokers given advice on how to quit, up from 17% in 2010
        *89% of smokers seeing a primary care professional given advice on ow to quit, up from 30% in 2013
        *88% of eligible population have had a cardiovascular risk assessment in last five years, up from 46% in 2012 ”

    • If Labour expect a clear run for this messaging on this without a fight, they’re in for a surprise. Too many with long memories of a health system bogged down by bureaucracy and too many eerie fairy targets. Simple targets set by National have revolutionised outcomes here and I have no reason to imagine Labour would do anything but employ ideological boffins and pen pushers and fail to advance patient outcomes one iota.

  2. Ray

     /  24th July 2017

    So the people who thought a one off 25 million for a flag referendum was a waste of money think 20 million per annum for an already bloated health bureaucracy is great!
    Tells you all you need to know about the socialist mind set

    • adamsmith1922

       /  24th July 2017

      They hated the flag idea becuase it was done by John Key, as many Labour/Greens want a flag change, but like so many on the left and the right personal animus made Key’s proposal toxic. Plus Key did not select designers and flag specialists to run the project.

    • PDB

       /  24th July 2017

      The flag idea would have been a success if the govt had simply put up the silver fern on black for consideration.

  3. NOEL

     /  24th July 2017

    I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at 58.
    At the time I was asked if I had medical insurance which as part of my salary package..
    The specialist then advise me to use it for the colonoscopy and MRI.
    I was told the cancer started two years earlier.

    Must admit I get all little peeved when Presidents and the like say they are going to find a cure for cancer during their watch..
    Lets get a foolproof early diagnostics test first and stop the unnecessary deaths.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s