Māori and Pacific people more likely to see a nurse over a doctor

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Nurses are seen as one possible way to relieve the pressure of an ageing population and doctor shortages, especially in rural areas. Using data from nearly 3 million doctor consultations and 700,000 nurse visits across all general practices between 2013-2016, AUT researchers found Pākehā had the most doctors visits - averaging 3.2/year, and Māori and Pacific patients had the highest chance of visiting nurses over doctors. Women, older adults and people living in socially-deprived areas used primary care the most, but better data capture is needed to inform decision-making about the future of the workforce, they say.

Journal/conference: New Zealand Medical Journal

Organisation/s: AUT University

Funder: Comprehensive Care PHO.

Media Release

From: New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA)

Key points

  • Primary health care is integral to the health system, as well as central to optimising population health and reducing health disparities
  • Women, older adults and people living in socially deprived areas utilise primary health care services when compared to other groups.
  • There is a growing shortage of doctors working in primary health care
  • There is opportunity for nurses to extend their scope of practice to undertake roles that previously were undertaken by doctors
  • Accurate knowledge of service utilisation supports the provision of primary health care services


The aim of our study was to examine socio-demographic trends in doctor and nurse utilisation rates for invoiced consultations in the Comprehensive Care Primary Health Organisation. We found that women, older adults and people living in socially deprived areas utilise primary care more frequently when compared to other population groups. Nurse utilisation rates were highest for Māori and Pacific patients.

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