Health NZ and the Māori Health Authority (MHA) recognise that Rural General Practice sustainability has been severely challenged through the impact of:
The RTHS could span both planned and un-planned service needs including:
Early thinking about the RTHS coincided with the launch of Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network held in Wellington on 28 June 2022. Health NZ took this opportunity to discuss and explore the RTHS with 80 rural health experts in an afternoon workshop. Workshop participants received a preview of the rural component of the interim NZ Health Plan that assured them the RTHS would not proceed at the expense of key priorities, including workforce development and a review of rural afterhours, PRIME and Urgent Care services.
The Rural Telehealth Service project will be overseen by a National Steering Group that includes HNZ, MHA, Hauora Taiwhenua, and experts from a range of rural organisations and perspectives. This group will ensure it aligns, and leverages learnings and resources of related initiatives and programmes and will have technical expertise to advise it on.
Engagement with individual and groups of Rural General Practices (as defined by them as participating services) will inform a phased roll out of the RTHS that will:
Locally based working groups will:
This initiative is one that can be implemented in an accelerated timeframe and anticipates a more comprehensive programme of rurally focussed initiatives that are outlined in the soon-to-be-released interim NZ Health Plan. It will leverage the increasing capability and acceptance of telehealth services by both patients and practitioners to move quickly to alleviate identified pressures in rural general practice.