Healthcare services

There are several ways to access New Zealand¡¯s healthcare services, depending on what sort of help you need.

If you need medical help and it is not an emergency, the first point of contact is a general practitioner (GP). Most GPs in New Zealand work in groups called a practice, operating from a Medical Centre.

A GP is a fully trained medical doctor who can give you medical advice and refer you for further tests or specialist treatment if needed. Treatment may be either in the public health system (which is subsidised or free) or through private providers (user pays).

For emergency medical help, visit the local hospital's emergency department. They will assess and treat patients who have serious injuries or illnesses.

Emergencies - more information

Getting medication

If you need medication, you can get it from a pharmacy (also known as 'chemist'). Pharmacies can sell you 'over the counter' drugs like everyday painkillers. For other medicine you need to go to a GP first for a prescription.

Our health system

You can find full information on the New Zealand health system on the Your Local Doctor website below. It includes factsheets in many languages and a video presented in English, Hindi and Mandarin.

The Health Navigator website provides reliable and trustworthy New Zealand health information and self-care resources. 

NZ Health and Disability System videos | Your Local Doctor

New Zealand's health system | Your Local Doctor

Health Navigator NZ

Your Rights

Help with healthcare costs

If you are eligible, you can get free or subsidised health, maternity and disability services in New Zealand. Check if there are going to be charges when you make an appointment.

Eligibility for subsidised healthcare

Finding a doctor

There are over 3,500 doctors (GPs) in New Zealand located in almost every city, town and suburb. To find a GP you can look in the front of the White Pages telephone book, under ‘Registered Medical Practitioners and Medical Centres'.

You can also look at the Healthpoint website, which lists registered GPs by area.

Start looking for a GP as soon as you can once you have decided where you are going to live so that you can be enrolled for subsidised charges when you want to see a doctor.

Not all GPs in a practice will be taking new patients. Remember to check the fees the practice charges when you enrol. Practices usually give priority to people who live or work in their local area.

Hot tip

Medical records

Get a copy of your medical records from your home country so you can give them to your GP here in New Zealand.

You can request a male or female GP and take a companion with you to an appointment.

To find out more about enrolling with a practice and finding a GP, visit the Ministry of Health web page. The 'Your Local Doctor' website also has easy to read information on how to enrol with a GP and the benefits of doing it.

If you have to see someone suddenly, you can use the after hours service that GP practices offer. You can use these services even if you are not enrolled with them, but you will pay a higher, unsubsidised price.

If you have questions or you do not know what to do or who to see, call Healthline on 0800 611 116.

Enrolling with your local doctor

General practitioners | Healthpoint

Finding a doctor and paying for visits | Ministry of Health

Emergencies

If there is a medical emergency needing urgent attention, you can call for an ambulance. In New Zealand the number to dial is 111.

In the Wellington area, Wellington Free Ambulance services are available at no charge. In other areas there may be a charge to use the ambulance, even if you do not call it. See the St Johns Ambulance website for more information.

Alternatively, you can go to the 24 hour emergency departments that hospitals run (sometimes called Accident and Emergency or A&E units). 

The Ministry of Health has more information about what to do in an emergency. The Police website has examples of emergencies - note that this is just a sample and not a full list. 

When to visit an emergency department | Ministry of Health

Examples of emergencies | New Zealand Police

Ambulance charges | St Johns Ambulance

Emergencies in New Zealand
Your Rights

Help if you have an accident

Most costs of injuries from accidents are covered by our Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) cover. This covers everyone in New Zealand, including non-residents and visitors.
If you are injured in an accident, your doctor or health provider will help you make a claim for ACC cover.

Paying for healthcare

Hospitals

New Zealand has around 40 public hospitals spread across the country in cities and larger towns.

With minor exceptions, such as some kinds of cosmetic surgery, hospital treatment is free for those eligible for health care services. Nobody can be refused emergency care because they are unable to pay. But if you are not a New Zealand resident, you may have to pay for some services.  If you are not eligible for health care services, we strongly recommend you take out a travel medical insurance policy.

Hospitals provide care for emergencies, serious health problems and illnesses. Their services include emergency departments and medical, surgical and maternity services.

Waiting times for surgery vary from hospital to hospital. If your case is urgent, you will be put on an urgent waiting list.

As well as the public hospitals, there are many private hospitals around New Zealand that you can access if you have health insurance.

Find a public hospital in your area | Ministry of Health

Dental care

Under the Talk Teeth programme, children get free basic care for their teeth until they are 18. Otherwise, dentists are not part of the free public health system. The Ministry of Health has information about dental care for families in New Zealand.

Dental care is provided by oral health care practitioners, such as dentists and dental hygienists, in private practices. Fees can vary widely, so remember to ask about them when you are looking for a dentist.

Find a dentist in your area | Dental Council

How to protect your family's teeth | Ministry of Health

Medical specialists

In New Zealand, if you need to see a medical specialist you have to start by going to your GP for a referral.

Specialists work in both the public and private healthcare systems. You can only choose a particular specialist if you go through New Zealand’s private health system.

The privately-operated website Healthpoint has useful information about specialist medical care in New Zealand, the treatments they offer and what you need to get referred.

Find a specialist in your area | Healthpoint

Maternity services

Maternity services in New Zealand are arranged and coordinated by a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) - usually a midwife.

The Ministry of Health and HealthEd have information about:

  • whether you will be eligible for free maternity care
  • how LMCs work with you
  • where to find maternity services
  • what screening programmes are available.

Maternity services in New Zealand | Ministry of Health

A guide to being pregnant in New Zealand | HealthEd

Child health

From birth to five years, all children in New Zealand qualify for a free health service called Well Child/Tamariki Ora. It gives children a range of health checks and provides support and advice for new parents. Your Lead Maternity Carer (usually your midwife) will get you started on this programme if you are a new parent, or you can go to the website.

One of the providers of the Well Child service is the Plunket Society. Plunket provides a wide range of free support services for children under 5 years and their parents. Its services include home and clinic visits, mobile clinics, and PlunketLine - a free telephone advice service for parents on 0800 933 922.

All children under 13 years are eligible for some free medical care. This includes:

  • immunisations against serious disease
  • regular eyesight and hearing checks at school
  • visits to the doctor. Not all GPs may provide free visits, so check with your GP first.

Basic dental care through school dental clinics is also free while children are at school. 

If your child is 15 years or under and has eyesight problems, you may be able to get a spectacle subsidy. 

Well Child/Tamiriki Ora service | Ministry of Health

Support for children under five years | Plunket

Free GP visits for under 13s | Ministry of Health

Chlidren's spectacle subsidy | Ministry of Health

Elder care

New Zealand offers a wide range of services to help the elderly in New Zealand. Services include home care, financial support, social support, rest homes and retirement villages.

For comprehensive information, call Senior Line 0800 725 463 or visit their website.

Support for older people | Senior Line

Mental health services

Mental health services are provided in each region. Generally, you need to start with your GP to get a referral, but emergency services are also available.

There are several phone services that you can contact directly for help with mental health issues. The main number to call is 1737.  Details of other helplines are available on the Mental Health Foundation website.

See the Ministry of Health website for more information on what to do in a mental health emergency and support services that are available.

Mental health services in New Zealand | Ministry of Health

Mental health helplines | Mental Health Foundation

Healthline

Healthline is a free telephone health advice service. Talk to a registered nurse about whether you should see a doctor to get general health advice or to find the nearest doctor or pharmacy. Healthline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (24/7) — call 0800 611 116. If you need language support, ask for an interpreter.

Healthline | Ministry of Health

Wellness programmes

The Ministry of Health has a range of programmes that help prevent illness. Programmes range from help with addictions like gambling, alcohol or smoking, to immunisation programmes and advice about keeping active.

Some organisations, such as Asian Family Services, provide multilingual wellness support to migrants.

Healthy living | Ministry of Health

Gambling support | Asian Family Services

Hot tip

Help to stop smoking

Quitline is a service funded by the Ministry of Health to help people stop smoking. Quitline offers a support phone line and online and text support. If you are eligible for free healthcare services, you can also access free nicotine replacement products through your doctor.

Quitline 0800 778 778

Complementary and alternative health services

New Zealand has a range of alternative health practitioners. The term complementary and alternative medicine is used for medical products or services that are not part of standard medical care, for example acupuncture.

These services are not subsidised by the government. However, the costs of acupuncture and osteopathy for injuries caused by an accident are covered by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). For more information about the accident compensation scheme, see 'Injuries from accidents' on our 'Paying for healthcare services' page.

Alternative health therapies | Te Ara Encyclopaedia of NZ

Injuries from accidents - Paying for healthcare services

About alternative health services | Health Navigator

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Page last updated: 22/10/2019

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