The Ministry of Health has today published The National Travel Assistance Scheme: Policy Recommendations Report, examining the way patients and whānau are supported with travel and accommodation costs within the health system.
‘The National Travel Assistance Scheme was designed to help with transport and accommodation costs for people who need to travel long distances, or often, for specialist hospital treatment,’ says Keriana Brooking, Deputy Director-General Health System Improvement and Innovation.
‘Often these people are in serious situations requiring critical treatment such as cancer services or dialysis. At other times, there's real anguish for families of babies with neonatal conditions who rely on this support.
‘We recognise NTAS as a valuable contribution to improving access in the public health and disability system. But while that's true, we also recognise that the scheme doesn't always work as well as it should. Awareness varies and it's not as well used as it could be.
‘The Ministry is recommending a programme of improvement for the current scheme, and further work to enable more ambitious change. We know there's a lot of interest in specifics such as mileage rates, but before any dollar figures can be finalised we need to have a clearer picture of the scheme's effectiveness and to get the current processes working as well as possible for patients.’
Amongst short term measures being timed with publication of the report, the current national policy will be reviewed to ensure that it is clear and supports best practice, and better support will be arranged for travel coordinators in district health boards (DHBs). DHBs will also be encouraged to consider the use of navigators or brokers to assist more vulnerable people.
‘Longer term, we need to better reflect major treatment pathways and build in flexibility. We will report back on how best to target need, and to make recommendations on future investment,’ says Keriana Brooking.
Currently, the scheme costs about $40 million a year to run with around 33 thousand clients receiving an average of $1000 each.
More information can be found at The National Travel Assistance Scheme: Policy Recommendations Report.