The Government is to require District Health Boards to reduce the amount of time patients wait in hospital emergency departments.
Health Minister Tony Ryall told a conference on emergency medicine in Wellington on Monday that New Zealanders are increasingly concerned about "hospital gridlock".
He said there had been a 20% rise over the past five years in the numbers visiting hospital emergency departments.
Mr Ryall said it has been estimated that at some hospitals up to 20% of patients spend more than eight hours languishing in emergency department corridors, even in quiet times, because of a lack of beds on wards.
He told the conference National-led Government will require District Health Boards to meet new targets limiting the length of stay in emergency departments.
Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Christchurch School of Medicine, Mike Ardagh, called for patients in emergency departments to be treated within six hours.
He told Checkpoint on Monday that he would like to see emergency departments throughout New Zealand achieve a six-hour goal.
Professor Ardagh says the use of such targets works - providing that the emphasis remains on quality of care and not solely on meeting the target.
He says to meet their targets, emergency departments will have to address issues of process, resources and capacity.