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Labour looks set to break its election promise to lower the cost of GP visits by $10, leaving New Zealanders further out of pocket and GP practices at risk of closure, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“Both National and Labour promised during the election to lower the cost of GP visits.

“But Labour is already preparing to break its promise to lower the fee cap for Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) practices from $18 to $8 and to $2 for teens – as well as its pledge to increase funding for all practices that lowered their fees by $10 per visit.

“All this was meant to happen from 1 July but it now appears yet another victim of the Government’s inability to manage the books, it’s poor spending decisions and its continued raid on the back pockets of New Zealanders.

“Sources in the GP community advise me that the pledges will at best be delayed, and at worst canned altogether, pending a review – yes, yet another Government working group - of primary health funding.

“New Zealand Doctor also reported last week that some practices believed the funding changes would threaten their viability and some might have to close.

“Regardless of the reasons for the delay, the Government made an unequivocal commitment to reduce the cost of GP fees for New Zealanders. 

“Health Minister David Clark is apparently still working through the package of initiatives as part of the Budget process but that’s not good enough. This was a firm promise to New Zealanders when Labour was trying to get into Government – but now in power it’s trying to renege.

“The Prime Minister made much of the policy when she made the announcement at Mangere last year, saying the fees reduction would be implemented while Labour undertook a review of primary care, not after it. 

“She stated the Labour Party had been working on the policy for some time but clearly not long enough for them to deliver on their promise or to effectively engage the GP community.

“After just six months the list of u-turns, broken promises and bad decisions made by this floundering Government is growing by the day, and raising real concerns.

“This likely backtrack looks to be another example of a policy that was poorly thought through or costed. GP practices and New Zealanders deserve to know what the Government’s real intentions are.”

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