Cancer is the leading cause of death in New Zealand. This year, 23,000 New Zealanders will be diagnosed with cancer and 10,000 will die. Whether they live or die, and whether they have a good quality of life, is in the hands of our health leaders. New Zealanders deserve world class cancer care. We are falling well short of this goal.
There has been material progress since the last election in acknowledging the work that is required, including the approval of the Cancer Action Plan and the creation of Te Aho o te Kahu.
But significant issues remain, including those highlighted by the Health and Disability Systems Review, and more is required for our health system to meet Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
There is far more to be done to ensure that New Zealand does not continue to slip even further down the OECD survivorship rankings, does not continue to have vastly inequitable patient experiences and outcomes, particularly for Māori and Pasifika, significantly improves our underfunded and unfair system for accessing medicines, and invests in and further develops its health workforce.
This election, the impact of COVID-19 is widely felt across New Zealand and worldwide. There are many negatives from the economic hardship in New Zealand that will impact on cancer patients – vulnerable groups will be hit the hardest and inequities exacerbated; there’ll be increased psycho-social needs and a backlog through the system from delayed diagnoses.
However, we also need to bank the gains that COVID-19 has demonstrated, such as the ability to implement difficult health decisions and system changes at speed, new and improved uses of technology, the crucial role of iwi and Māori health providers in engaging Māori with health prevention and access to treatment, and the vital role of NGOs complementing the health system and being an essential safety net. These learnings must lead to longterm system improvements.